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Suspected cause of type 1 diabetes caught 'red-handed' for the first time
Date:5/9/2008

May 8, 2008 -- Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis working with diabetic mice have examined in unprecedented detail the immune cells long thought to be responsible for type 1 diabetes.

Researchers were able to examine the immune cells from isolated insulin-making structures in the pancreas known as the islets of Langerhans. They caught the immune cells, known as dendritic cells, "red-handed": carrying insulin and fragments of insulin-producing cells known as beta cells. This can be the first step toward starting a misdirected immune system attack that destroys the beta cells, preventing the body from making insulin and causing type 1 diabetes.

The results, reported online in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, push scientists a step closer to finding ways to treat this condition.

"Now that we've isolated dendritic cells from the pancreas, we can look at why they get into the pancreas and determine which of the materials that they pick up are most critical to causing this form of diabetes," says senior author Emil R. Unanue, M.D., the Paul and Ellen Lacy Professor of Pathology. "That may allow us to find ways to inhibit dendritic cell function in order to block the disorder."

The American Diabetes Association estimates that 1 million to 2 million Americans suffer from type 1 diabetes, which is also called juvenile diabetes because it frequently develops in children.

Patients require insulin injections to survive because the immune system has destroyed the islets of Langerhans, which contain the body's only beta cells. The insulin these cells make is required for the critical task of regulating blood sugar levels.

Scientists detected dendritic cells in the islets years ago. Dendritic and other antigen-presenting cells are the sentinels of the immune system: They pick up bits of protein from around the body and present them to lymphocytes to initiate an imm
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Contact: Michael Purdy
purdym@wustl.edu
314-286-0122
Washington University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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