Blocking Signals Harmful to Islets
When you get a splinter in your finger, the skin around it usually turns red. It becomes inflamed.
That’s your immune system at work. It rushes to fix the area where the splinter has caused an “insult” to your body. But that’s just the beginning of a cascade of events. Additional immune cells are recruited to make sure the problem doesn’t spread to other areas. The result: inflammation.
That’s what happens when insulin-producing islet cells are placed in a patient with type 1 diabetes.
The problem: when the immune system responds, it can destroy the islet cells.
So, scientists at the Diabetes Research Institute are finding ways to reduce the inflammatory response. They are studying the signals that trigger the immune response that leads to inflammation - and are blocking those signals.
It’s the focus of numerous studies aimed at protecting transplanted islets as well as the onset or recurrence of autoimmune diabetes.
The DRI’s research in this area was published in the journal Diabetes.
Rejection of transplanted islet cells is triggered by inflammation. This inflammatory process activates the immune system to launch a response immediately after the transplant. A cascade of specialized immune cells (T cells, B cells and macrophages) are recruited that try to destroy the transplanted cells. In those with type 1 diabetes, the underlying autoimmune process may contribute to a more aggressive inflammatory response resulting from the combination of rejection of donor cells and autoimmunity. DRI scientists are working on better understanding the very early inflammatory events occurring in islet transplants in order to develop targeted strategies to dampen the response and help the cells survive and thrive long term.