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Targeting B cells involved in Type 1

Project summary

Preclinical testing of IA-2-IgG Fc chimeric proteins for antigen-specific B-cell depletion therapy of Type 1 diabetes

Dr Michael Christie will develop a technique to eliminate ‘B cells’ of the immune system that are thought to be involved in the development of Type 1 diabetes, leaving other kinds of B cell intact. He will study the technique in mice and in blood samples of people with Type 1 diabetes to work out if this is an effective way to prevent the condition.

Background to research

The immune system usually guards us against infection, but in Type 1 diabetes the immune cells attack and destroy insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Therapies that block the immune cells could potentially help to treat and prevent Type 1 diabetes, but would also weaken the overall immune system and put people at risk of other health problems. Scientists are developing therapies that only target the specific immune cells involved in the attack in Type 1 diabetes, leaving the rest of the immune system intact. Much of this work focuses on targeting ‘T cells’, but other kinds of immune cell, called ‘B cells’, are also important. In Type 1 diabetes, both of these cell types attack the islets, so therapies that target both are likely to be most effective.

Research aims

Dr Michael Christie will develop a technique to eliminate ‘B cells’ that are part of the immune attack on insulin-producing islets. The team will combine a protein usually found on the surface of beta cells with another protein (called an antibody) that marks cells for destruction by the immune system. B cells that recognise the beta cell protein and bind to this new molecule will be destroyed, leaving other B cells that don't attack beta cells intact.  Dr Christie and his team will test the effectiveness of these new molecules in mice and using blood samples from people recently diagnosed Type 1 diabetes. Overall, their aim is to work out if this approach might be a safe and effective way prevening and perhaps treating Type 1 diabetes.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

There are currently no ways to prevent or cure Type 1 diabetes. This research will tell us if a new technique of targeting specific B cells involved in the immune attack could be an effective treatment.  If this approach is effective, it could be combined with other therapies that target different immune cells involved in the attack, leading to the development of combination therapies.

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