Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, characterized by a loss of self-tolerance and the presence of autoantibodies e.g. to Insulin that is produced by beta cells of the pancreas. Autoantibodies can be detected in the blood many years before onset of the disease. Presence of multiple autoantibodies has an almost 100 percent likelihood of developing diabetes later in life, although the time of progression to overt diabetes can widely differ.
What cellular and molecular mechanisms control the autoimmune process and lead to latency or remission of disease? Understanding these connections is the goal of the team of Prof. Dr. Anette-Gabriele Ziegler, Dr. Carolin Daniel, Dr. Stefanie Hauck und Prof. Dr. Ezio Bonifacio from the Helmholtz Zentrum München in cooperation with the Center for Regenerative Therapies, Technische Universität Dresden. Both research institutions are partners of the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD). The signals involved in the immune response could help to estimate the risk of disease progression and reveal novel targets for prevention and therapy of type 1 diabetes.
The research team therefore wants to investigate T lymphocytes, immune cells that recognize beta cell antigens. Preliminary data suggests that regulatory phenotypes of T cells could hold up immune reactions and decelerate disease progression. Through unique bioresources that have been collected for more than 20 years, the scientists hope to identify biomarkers of disease latency and remission.
JDRF, a foundation for research on type 1 diabetes, is awarding this research grant as part of its prevention research program, the goal of which is to slow or halt the progression of disease before insulin dependence occurs, and long-term, to eliminate the risk of developing the disease. “Preventing type 1 diabetes is challenging because of the complexity of the autoimmune process that is at the heart of this disease,” said JDRF senior scientist and program lead Jessica Dunne, Ph.D. “Developing a better understanding of why some individuals with autoantibodies progress more slowly may open new pathways to prevention strategies.”