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Down to details of Type 1 immune attack

Project summary

In Type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakenly attacks several different proteins in the pancreas. One of them is called ZnT8. It seems that people develop Type 1 diabetes at a slower rate if their immune system attacks ZnT8. Dr Gillespie would like to understand the biology behind this attack.

This project will help us understand Type 1 diabetes in more detail and may help researchers develop new therapies to stop the immune attack.

Background to research

In Type 1 diabetes, the immune system goes rogue and starts to attack the pancreas – several different proteins in the pancreas can be attacked. Researchers look at how many proteins, and which specific ones, are being attacked to help work out how quickly Type 1 diabetes might progress.

One of these proteins is called ZnT8, and people with an immune attack against ZnT8 seem to develop Type 1 diabetes more slowly than others. But we don’t know why.

Understanding how the immune system attacks ZnT8 will help us understand more about why Type 1 diabetes develops at different rates in different people. It will also tell us more about Type 1 diabetes in general.

Research aims

A PhD student working with Dr Gillespie will find out if ZnT8 is recognised differently in people with and without Type 1 diabetes, alongside people at high or low risk of developing Type 1 diabetes.

They will also find out how the immune system recognises ZnT8, which specific part of ZnT8 is recognised, and whether the levels of ZnT8 in the pancreas change at different stages of Type 1 diabetes.

Results from these experiments will help us to understand more about the overall immune attack in people with Type 1 diabetes.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

At Diabetes UK we are committed to finding a cure for Type 1 diabetes and preventing the condition from developing in those at risk. This research will provide invaluable information about the immune attack in Type 1 diabetes. In turn, it may help researchers to develop new treatments to cure or prevent the condition in the future.

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