Ann Conkle
Mar 9, 2012

Study shows roles of pancreatic cells and the immune system in Type 1 diabetes

A new study shows that many of the genes known to play a role in type 1 diabetes (T1D) are expressed in pancreatic beta cells, suggesting that the cells responsible for producing insulin may be playing a part in thier own destruction to lead to T1D. Published in the March issue of PLoS Genetics, researchers in Belgium suggest this interpretation after producing an extensive catalogue of more than 15,000 genes expressed in human islets (a type of pancreatic cell), forming the most extensive characterization of human islets reported to date. In the study, the researchers found many of the previously known genes associated with T1D among the genes expressed in human islets. When the researchers exposed the human islets to agents (cytokines) released by immune cells that may trigger T1D, they noted changes in the expression patterns of these genes. This finding suggested that the islets may be contributing to the recruitment of immune cells as T1D starts to develop.