Researchers in Canada have identified the role of a type of T cell that might explain more about the automimmune response that can lead to Type 1 diabetes.
The research team found that children newly diagnosed with Type 1 have an increased presence of Th17 cells, a type of T cell discovered in 2005.
‘T cells are white blood cells and key members of the immune system that control infections,’ says Rusung Tan, leader of the team at the University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine. ‘In healthy individuals, Th17 cells provide a strong defence against bacteria and viruses by guiding the immune system to strongly attack infected targets within our bodies.’
In children susceptible to Type 1 however, it is thought that Th17 might play a harmful role, as this T cell has previously been associated with other autoimmune conditions such as Crohn’s disease.
‘The elevated levels of Th17 cells in type 1 diabetes patients suggest that these cells may also play a key role in the early development of this disease in young patients,’ says Tan.
The findings are published in the October 2010 issue of the Journal of Immunology, and the study was supported by grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
The abstract of the study can be found here.