Different Immune Cells Could Provide Target for Diabetes Therapy

A team of Australian researchers led by JDRF-funded scientist Shane Grey was able to completely prevent type 1 diabetes in mice with a therapy that targets immune B cells, rather than T cells. Most therapies aimed at reversing the immune response that causes type 1 diabetes target T cells—the immune cells ultimately responsible for the destruction of insulin-producing beta cells. But previous research has pointed to a key role for B cells. In the Australian research, pre-diabetic mice that received a B cell therapy were completely protected from type 1 diabetes throughout the study’s 50 weeks. By contrast, mice not given the therapy showed rising blood sugar levels and eventually developed diabetes. The researchers found that the B cell therapy prevents diabetes by reducing the total number of B cells in the body. This effect blunts the degree of B cell/T cell interaction, minimizing a trigger of the disease. It also increases the number of regulatory T cells, enabling the immune system to “reign in” potential autoimmune activity from destructive T cells. The findings, published in the journal Diabetes, advance our understanding of how diabetes develops and progresses—and suggests that depleting the B cells may be a powerful tool for preventing and treating type 1 diabetes in people.