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New discovery paves way for earlier detection of type 1 diabetes

(Xinhua)    10:49, September 01, 2019

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 31 -- U.S. scientists at Scripps Research Institute have discovered the earliest possible biological marker of type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, which would help delay the onset of the disease, according to a new study published on Friday.

Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that typically emerges before the age of 20, wipes out the body's ability to produce insulin -- a hormone that is essential to life.

Diagnosis often comes after symptoms arise, at which point the disease has taken hold. If there were a way to test at-risk patients for very early signs of the disease, it may be possible to delay its onset.

According to the new research published in Science Immunology, scientists at the institute are attempting to replicate their mouse study in humans. If successful, the timing of therapeutic intervention may be drastically improved for patients who are on course to develop the disease.

"The translational aspect of this study is what's most exciting to me," said Luc Teyton, professor of immunology and microbiology at the institute, who led the research. "By using single-cell technologies to study the prediabetic phase of disease, we have been able to mechanistically link specific anti-insulin T cells with the autoimmune response seen in type 1 diabetes. And that has given us the confirmation we needed to move into human studies."

Roughly 1.25 million American children and adults have type 1 diabetes, and the incidence rate is increasing, according to the study. For those with the disease, the immune system attacks pancreatic beta cells that are solely responsible for producing insulin. People with type 1 diabetes need to closely monitor their blood-glucose levels and inject insulin daily to survive.

Teyton's team has been working through experiments spanning five years to address this topic. Their work involved evaluating blood samples of non-obese diabetic mice during the very early phase of disease, using cutting-edge structural and computational biology techniques to understand how the cells bring about disease.

The single-cell analysis had never been done before for these types of cells, unearthing new information, Teyton said.

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