Proof of Killer T-Cells in the Pancreas of Patients with Recent onset and Long-term Type 1 Diabetes

In this study, the investigators used nPOD-supplied cadaveric pancreata to study a number of immunological and histological parameters from individuals with T1D, with disease duration ranging from one week to >50 years. The investigators showed the first proof that Killer T-cells capable of destroying beta cells infiltrated the pancreas islets of individuals with recent-onset and longstanding type 1 diabetes and that this infiltration was specific to T1D. Human pancreatic tissue for these studies was provided through a collaborative T1D research consortium funded by JDRF. The JDRF Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes (nPOD) provides rare and difficult to obtain pancreatic tissues to carefully selected research organizations around the world. The use of tissue samples from the nPOD consortium was critical to these investigators’ ability to conduct this important research.


Coppieters KT, Dotta F, Amirian N, Campbell PD, Kay TW, Atkinson MA, Roep BO, von Herrath MG. (2012). Demonstration of islet-autoreactive CD8 T cells in insulitic lesions from recent onset and long-term type 1 diabetes patients. J Exp Med. Jan 16;209(1):51-60. [Epub ahead of print]

Ramifications for Individuals with Type 1 Diabetes:

This study definitively shows that Killer T-cells that were previously detected in the circulation of individuals with type 1 diabetes are also infiltrating the pancreas during the autoimmune attack. This suggests that the Killer T-cells circulating in the blood may be a potential target for new T1D treatments.

JDRF Involvement:

This research was performed with the support of the nPOD, a collaborative type 1 diabetes research project sponsored by JDRF.