Researchers identify trigger and mechanism in type 1 diabetes

Researchers at National Jewish Health have identified an elusive trigger of type 1 diabetes. A protein fragment formed in the pancreas activates the immune system’s T cells, leading them to attack and destroy beta cells, which produce insulin. Lack of insulin is a hallmark of type 1 diabetes.

The research, published in the April 5, 2019, issue of Science Immunology, solves a long-standing mystery about the specific molecule that triggers many cases of type 1 diabetes, and suggests strategies to prevent and treat the disease.

“These results provide important evidence about how molecules activate the autoimmune response in type 1 diabetes, how they are likely created and why the immune system is fooled into launching this misdirected attack against its own body,” said John Kappler, Ph.D., senior author and Professor of Biomedical Research at National Jewish Health.

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