A research team led by Dr. Ciriaco A. Piccirillo of McGill University’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology has discovered that in some individuals, the specialized immunoregulatory T-cells that regulate the body’s autoimmune reactions may lose their effectiveness and become “lazy” over time, leading to the onset of type 1 diabetes. The study – conducted on non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice, which were genetically engineered to model human diabetes – was published in the January 2008 edition of the journal Diabetes.
In diabetes mellitus, or type 1 diabetes, insulin-producing beta islet cells in the pancreas are attacked and destroyed by the body’s own immune system. Patients must inject insulin on a regular basis or risk diabetic shock and death, and are also at increased risk for numerous secondary health problems, including blindness, heart attack and stroke.
“The genetic and cellular mechanisms by which the immune system goes out of control and destroys the islets has been an enigma and an area of great interest over the last few decades,” said Dr. Piccirillo, Canada Research Chair in Regulatory Lymphocytes of the Immune System, and a leading figure in this research area. “For the last several years, it’s been postulated that non-functional regulatory T-cells are the critical mechanism, and this study proves it.”
Regulatory CD4+ T-cells, whose development and function is dictated by the Foxp3 gene in mice and humans, “have the primary function of pouring a cold shower on inflammatory responses,” explained Dr. Piccirillo. “They suppress and regulate the function of various immune responses to microbes, tumors, allergens and transplants.” While the diabetes-susceptible NOD mice actually generate normal numbers of Foxp3 T-cells over their lifetimes, Dr. Piccirillo and his colleagues discovered that the T-cells’ functional potency declined with age, leaving potential autoimmune responses in the pancreas unchecked.
It is likely, the researchers say, that certain genetic predispositions, coupled with the possible contribution of external environmental factors or infections, could potentially alter regulatory T-cell function in susceptible individuals and trigger a full-scale diabetic autoimmune reaction in the pancreas.
“Once they start, these immune responses are like a fire that goes unchecked by firemen, or a car going downhill without brakes,” said Dr. Piccirillo. Moreover, he said, this discovery not only elucidates the mechanism by which type 1 diabetes is triggered, but it also points the way to the development of new immune system-based therapies for a whole range of diseases.
“We believe that these regulatory cells may represent a kind of master switch, and by understanding how they are made, how they function and how they survive, we may be able to stop disease from occurring.”
Mark Shainblum | EurekAlert!
Study suggests possible new target for treating and preventing Alzheimer's
02.12.2016 | Oregon Health & Science University
The first analysis of Ewing's sarcoma methyloma opens doors to new treatments
01.12.2016 | IDIBELL-Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy