Final piece of the diabetes puzzle opens the door to better screening
Our understanding of diabetes has takensome significant strides recently, but a new discovery has thepotential to significantly improve the screening process by giving usa more complete picture of the disease. Working out the University ofLincoln in the UK, a team was able to identify the fifth and finalmolecule attacked by the immune system in Type 1 of the condition.
Type 1 diabetes arises when thepancreas loses its ability to produce insulin, which usuallyregulates blood sugar levels, transporting glucose from the bloodinto cells, where it's used as energy. The condition is caused by afault in the patient's immune system, wherein the body's defensesactually destroy the cells in the pancreas that usually produce theprecious insulin.
Specifically, the immune system targetsmolecules in the pancreas called autoantigens. People with Type 1diabetes have certain antibodies in their blood that relate to specific molecules in the pancreas, which they hunt down anddestroy. There are already tests available that check for theseantibodies, with the more of them that are found indicating astronger risk of developing diabetes.
The University of Lincoln researchershave been working to improve the accuracy of those tests. Before thestudy, we'd managed to identify four molecules that the immune systemattacks in Type 1 diabetes, but in the new work, they were able toconfirm the identity of a fifth molecule, previously known only as"Glima."
"We already had some knowledge aboutthe physical properties of Glima, but its molecular identity has formany years proved elusive," said lead researcher Dr MichaelChristie. "This has hampered the development of relevantautoantibody tests, but our research successfully identified Glima asthe substance Tetraspanin-7."
With Tetraspanin-7 identified as thefifth molecule, future screening methods can include it, potentiallymaking them significantly more accurate, while providing moreinformation about the patient's specific immune response, which canhelp inform treatment choices.
Full details of the breakthrough arepublished online in the journal American Diabetes Association.
Source: University of Lincoln