Researchers recently demonstrated for the first time a direct association between human beta cell destruction and CD8 T cells, which are cells that play an important role in the body’s immune system. This autoimmune “attack” is a hallmark of T1D and it results in the destruction of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. In their investigation, the researchers used human tissue samples from the pancreases of T1D organ donors obtained through nPOD, a JDRF collaborative research project. This new study provides evidence that CD8 T cells are present in the islets of the pancreas that contain beta cells. These findings are important for future research on preserving beta-cell function and establishing biomarkers for therapies for T1D.
Consistent with its leadership role in T1D research, JDRF is prioritizing the investigation of biomarkers. We are advancing the knowledge about the direction and needs of research in this critical area, with the goal of providing vital information to reliably measure or predict disease progression in individuals with T1D and to indicate their responsiveness to therapies. Supporting the development of biomarkers for T1D could provide industry with tools to allow for more efficient and attractive incentives to pursue therapies for the disease.
An important protein involved in beta cell growth is snipped in T1D. Scientists have now identified the culprit—a molecular scissors called Bace2—and identified a chemical compound that inactivates it in mice. This inhibitor renews beta cell growth and could potentially lead to new strategies to promote beta cell regeneration to treat T1D. This is a key example of how science can advance when academic and industry scientists work together.