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Investigating a potential cause of Type 1 diabetes

Project summary

Depletion of the phosphatase inhibitor, PPP1R1A, may contribute to beta cell loss in Type 1 diabetes

It’s believed that one of the factors involved in the development of Type 1 diabetes could be a specific type of virus that infects pancreatic beta cells, causing the immune system to attack them. The aim of this project is to investigate key proteins that may be involved in the potential viral infection of beta cells. The results will improve our understanding of the causes of Type 1 diabetes, ultimately informing future research into the prevention and treatment of the condition. 

Background to research

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the immune system attacks and kills insulin-producing beta cells found in the pancreas. We currently don’t know why this attack happens, but it’s believed to be triggered by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. One potential theory is that beta cells are infected by a type of virus called an ‘enterovirus’, causing the immune system to mistakenly turn against them. Professor Morgan’s team have found that a protein (called PPP1R1A) that helps cells to fight against viruses is lost in certain beta cells during Type 1 diabetes development.

Research aims

This project aims to investigate the role of the PP1R1A protein in the development of Type 1 diabetes, to help us understand the immune attack that occurs in more detail. The team will compare pancreas samples taken from people with and without Type 1 diabetes, to look at the levels of virus infection and the amounts of PP1R1A within the cells. They'll also grow human beta cells in the lab to study the protective effects of PP1R1A against viral infection.   

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

This research will provide a clearer picture how Type 1 diabetes develops on a molecular level, helping us to understand why the immune attack against beta cells occurs in the first place. Identifying specific molecules involved in this process could inform the future development of treatments to slow or stop the death of beta cells in people with Type 1 diabetes. 

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