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Scientists shed new light on link between 'killer cells' and diabetes
Date:1/15/2012

Killer T-cells in the human body which help protect us from disease can inadvertently destroy cells that produce insulin, new research has uncovered.

The study provides the first evidence of this mechanism in action and could offer new understanding of the cause of Type 1 diabetes.

Professor Andy Sewell, an expert in human T-cells from Cardiff University's School of Medicine worked alongside diabetes experts from King's College London to better understand the role of T-cells in the development of Type 1 diabetes.

The team isolated a T-cell from a patient with Type 1 diabetes to view a unique molecular interaction which results in the killing of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

"Type 1 diabetes is a result of the body's own immune system attacking and destroying the cells in the pancreas that manufacture the hormone insulin. Insulin controls blood sugar levels and a lack of insulin is fatal if untreated," said Professor Sewell.

"The mechanism by which the body attacks its own insulin producing cells in the pancreas is not fully understood. Our findings show how killer T-cells might play an important role in autoimmune diseases like diabetes and we've secured the first ever glimpse of the mechanism by which killer T-cells can attack our own body cells to cause disease," he added.

Co-author of the study, Professor Mark Peakman from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre at King's College London and Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust said: "This first sight of how killer T-cells make contact with the cells that make insulin is very enlightening, and increases our understanding of how Type 1 diabetes may arise.

"This knowledge will be used in the future to help us predict who might get the disease and also to develop new approaches to prevent it. Our aim is to catch the disease early before too many insulin-producing cells have been damaged."'/>"/>

Contact: Andy Sewell
sewellak@cardiff.ac.uk
44-292-068-7007
Cardiff University
Source:Eurekalert

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