Immune System Modulating Compounds and Beta Cell Destruction

In T1D, infiltration of islets by immune system cells and the presence of immune system modulating compounds called cytokines are hallmarks of the autoimmune attack on beta cells. Dr. Nadler and his team simulated T1D in human islets with cytokines in the lab and noted that the beta cells produced a certain cytokine called IL-12. They then measured the effects of this cytokine on human islets under various conditions. These studies clearly support a role of the cytokine called IL-12 in beta cell dysfunction and beta cell death. These findings suggest that drugs that interfere with cytokine IL-12 could protect beta cells in T1D and represent a new potential therapeutic approach to preserving beta cell function in the early stages of T1D.

Ramifications for Individuals with T1D:

Cytokines, including one called IL-12, are natural compounds that play a role in the function of the immune system. This work implicates the IL-12 cytokine in the destructive response of beta cells. Drugs that block the action of this specific cytokine could be used to preserve beta cells during development of T1D. Dr. Nadler and his team have identified compounds that block its action and are currently working to determine if these types of compounds could be useful as a treatment of T1D that enhances beta cell survival.

JDRF Involvement:

This work was supported, in part, by a JDRF Strategic Research Agreement with Dr. Nadler.

Investigators and Institutions:

This work was led by Dr. Jerry Nadler at the Eastern Virginia Medical School.


Taylor-Fishwick, D,A,, Weaver, J. R., Grzesik W., Chakrabarti S., Green-Mitchell, S., Imai, Y., Kuhn N., Nadler, J.L. (2013) Production and function of IL-12 in islets and beta cells. Diabetalogia. 56(1):126-35 (Epub 2012 Oct 3).