According to a BBC News article this week, “the final piece of the diabetes puzzle” has been solved, as scientists revealed the fifth and final target the immune system attacks, causing type 1 diabetes.
The team from the University of Lincoln believe the findings might help in the development of new ways to prevent and treat type 1 diabetes.
Studies have been done that look at the unique antibodies made by patients with type 1 diabetes. They had shown that there were five key targets the immune system attacks erroneously. While some of those targets have been known for some time, the fifth and final one has taken two decades to work out.
Dr Mike Christie and his team at the University of Lincoln successfully identified the fifth molecule as Tetraspanin 7, which could make tests to predict who is at risk of type 1 diabetes more accurate.
The research was funded by Diabetes UK and the Society of Endocrinology.
Dr Christie said: “Being able to detect circulating autoantibodies and identify their molecular targets has allowed scientists to develop tests for the clinical diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes, and for the identification of individuals at high risk of developing the disease.
“Evidence from both animal studies and human trials indicate that Type 1 diabetes may be prevented in individuals at risk, and a number of therapies to interfere with immune responses have proved effective in preventing disease development in animals and in slowing the loss of insulin-secreting cell function in human patients.
“There is now a focus on the development of procedures to interfere specifically in immune responses that cause Type 1 diabetes, and it is therefore absolutely essential that we gather as much information as possible about the major targets of autoimmune responses.”
The other targets for the immune system are:
- Glutamate decarboxylase
- Zinc transporter-8.
Screening for antibodies against the four targets found in the pancreas is currently used to assess a someone’s risk of type 1 diabetes. Tetraspanin-7 antibodies could now be included in this process.