We are taking the liberty of sending you an extra newsletter to impart to you few articles on type one diabetes research that you may find of interest. We found this article to be especially fascinating. It was just published yesterday. We encourage you to watch the videos of the T cell attack on mouse beta cells.
This video shows the T cells (purple dots) attacking the pancreatic islets (green images in center), which contain the insulin‑producing beta cells. (Beta cell destruction leads to type 1 diabetes).
A war is being waged in the pancreases of millions of people throughout the world. The siege leads to the development of type 1 diabetes and has been a battlefield largely hidden from view– until now. Researchers at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology have created the first cellular movies showing the destruction underlying type 1 diabetes in real-time in mouse models.
“We are presenting the first images at cellular resolution of type 1 diabetes as-it-unfolds,” said Matthias von Herrath, M.D. one of the world’s top type 1 diabetes researchers and director of the Diabetes Research Center at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology. “Being able to view these insulin-producing cells while they interact in the pancreas, rather than in a static state under the microscope, will greatly enhance our ability – and that of the broader scientific community — to find interventions for type 1 diabetes.”
A paper on the team’s scientific findings, along with the cellular movies taken by the researchers, were published online in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. The movies are freely available and can be seen at http://www.jci.org/articles/view/59285 (movie links at end of paper).
“This live imaging of the white blood cells that cause diabetes is quite remarkable,” said George Eisenbarth, M.D., Ph.D., a prominent type 1 diabetes researcher and executive director of the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes in Colorado. “These images provide critical information about the disease process, in particular showing us the reasons why the beta cell destruction (underlying type 1 diabetes) occurs very slowly over time. Such information may enable new approaches to stop the destruction process, with the ultimate goal being prevention.”
In the movies, objects resembling ants can be seen furiously scampering about looking for their prey. The “ants” are actually immune system T cells, the body’s cellular soldiers. The “prey” is insulin-producing beta cells, which the T cells mistakenly attack and destroy, eventually leading to type 1 diabetes.
“The two-photon microscope enables researchers to “see” into living tissues at a much greater depth than conventional imaging methods,” said Dr. von Herrath. “It uses intense pulses of light that enable us to monitor interactions of cells without destroying them.”
Dr. Coppieters said the as-it-happens movies reveal the specific behaviors of various cells. “We’re able to see how the beta cells eventually die and how the immune T cells access the pancreas from the blood stream,” he said. Among the many insights gained, the researchers were able to identify the specific blood vessels where the T cells (normally none of these reside in the pancreas) enter the pancreas, how the T cells launch an attack and the time sequence of events.
The movies also illuminated particularly interesting information regarding the beta cell destruction process. “The T cells move randomly throughout the pancreas until they encounter the beta cells, where they slow down and release toxic substances that eventually kill the beta cells. What was most surprising is that this ‘kiss of death’ takes quite a while, elaborate calculations indicated a timeline in the order of hours (to kill a few beta cells),” said Dr. Coppieters.
The scientists also found remarkable the large numbers of T cells needed in the mice – tens of millions — to produce massive beta cell destruction. “These factors may help to explain the long pre-clinical stage in type 1 diabetes,” said Dr. von Herrath, since T cell numbers in the human pancreas are thought to be significantly lower than in mice.
“This means that the autoimmune attack is already ongoing for years before the number of beta cells drops below a critical threshold, resulting in clinical diagnosis,” he said, noting that 90 percent of beta cells are destroyed in humans before the disease is usually recognized. “From a therapeutic perspective, these studies suggest that we may need to find a way to prevent the T cells from accessing the pancreas in the first place, since once they do, they have the ability to destroy several beta cells at a time.”
Health-e-Solutions comment: These videos confirm what has been one of the major theories in the development of type one diabetes. It remains to be confirmed what causes the autoimmune attack. Diet is one of the leading suspects. The diabetic-alkaline lifestyle may be one of the best ways to prevent or diminish this autoimmune response and preserve remaining beta cells.