Uncovering a Pancreatic Bodyguard

Researchers have discovered a rare immune system cell that might shield the pancreas from attack in models of mice with Type 1 diabetes.



Researchers at UC San Francisco are enlisting a newly-discovered cell to stop the immune system from attacking the pancreas in mice with Type 1 diabetes.  According to a university news outlet, Dr. Mark Anderson and a team of researchers have discovered the rare eTAC cell can be trained to act as a bodyguard for the pancreas in mice with Type 1 diabetes.

With Type 1 diabetes, the immune system’s attack cells, or T cells, destroy islet cells in the pancreas. The T cells sniff out the pancreatic cells by identifying a molecule, chromogranin A, in the islets. Dr. Anderson and his researchers determined that eTAC cells could be manipulated to race to the pancreas, display the chromogranin A molecule and turn off the T cells before they damage the pancreas.

eTAC cells, which reside in the lymph nodes and spleen in mice and humans, make up just a tiny fraction of the immune system. The next step, Anderson says, is to determine a way to grow large amounts of the cells and deliver them in a manner that ensures they will consistently guard the pancreas.

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Craig Idlebrook is a past editor for Insulin Nation, Type 2 Nation, and Información Sobre Diabetes. He is now the community engagement and content manager for T1D Exchange.