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High blood sugar's impact on immune system holds clues to improving islet cell transplants
Date:12/17/2008

AUGUSTA, Ga. A biological tit for tat may hold clues to improving the success of islet cell transplants intended to cure type 1 diabetes, according to a Medical College of Georgia scientist.

In type 1, the immune system attacks insulin-producing cells causing high blood glucose levels that may temporarily reduce the attack, said Dr. Rafal Pacholczyk, an immunologist in the MCG Center for Biotechnology and Genomic Medicine.

He just received a three-year, $495,000 grant from Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to find out whether this counteraction offers insight for transplants.

High blood glucose, or hyperglycemia, causes all sorts of dysregulation throughout the body. "It throws off metabolism, hormonal interplay and increases the risk of severe infections," Dr. Pacholczyk said. A shot of insulin or an islet cell transplant normalizes blood glucose levels, enabling, among other things, restoration of the usual balance between effector T cells which mount an immune or autoimmune response and regulatory T cells which suppress attacks.

He's obviously not saying hyperglycemia is good; in fact if diabetics were to get a transplant while their blood glucose was high the procedure alone could be lethal. But Dr. Pacholczyk hypothesizes it causes a temporary shift in the immune playing field that gives advantage to regulatory T-cells long enough for the body to accept the transplanted cells. One reason may be that suppressive regulatory cells recover differently or are less influenced by hyperglycemia.

Researchers at Canada's University of Alberta were the ones to find high blood glucose causes a short-lived suppression of the attack mode of the immune system followed by a slow return of homeostasis. The result: Islet cell transplants done in mice immediately after a blood glucose spike were dramatically more successful than those done days later, according to the research published in 2007 in the Scandinavian Journa
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Contact: Toni Baker
tbaker@mcg.edu
706-721-4421
Medical College of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert  

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