Novel T-cell subset may have a role in development of type 1 diabetes

A study conducted at the University of Eastern Finland demonstrated that a recently described T-cell subset, so-called peripheral T helper cells, may have a role in the development of type 1 diabetes. The frequency of circulating peripheral T helper cells was observed to be increased both in children with recently diagnosed type 1 diabetes and in healthy children who later progressed to type 1 diabetes. The study was published in the journal Diabetologia.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that typically manifests in childhood. In type 1 diabetes, insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas are destroyed by the immune system. In addition to genetic susceptibility, the appearance of autoantibodies in blood is predictive of future development of type 1 diabetes.

The appearance of autoantibodies before clinical diabetes is caused by B cell activation against proteins in the pancreatic islets. The activation of B cells in lymphoid tissues is, in turn, controlled by follicular helper T cells. Earlier work by Academy Research Fellow Tuure Kinnunen and his research group at the University of Eastern Finland has demonstrated that the frequency of blood follicular helper T cells is increased in children close to the onset of type 1 diabetes.

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