In Type 1 diabetes, immune cells called ‘B cells’ move into the pancreas and are involved in the destruction of insulin-producing cells. Professor Susan Wong wants to work out why they do this. Her team will study a protein found on B cells and look for differences between people with and without Type 1 diabetes. This could help us develop treatments that stop the immune attack and prevent this condition.
Background to research
Our immune system usually destroys bacteria and viruses that invade our body. But in Type 1 diabetes, a small number of immune cells mistakenly attack insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. One type of ‘bad’ immune cell involved in this process is called a B cell.
A protein found on B cells, called CXCR3, plays a role in causing the immune attack. Professor Wong has discovered that people with Type 1 diabetes have lower levels of CXCR3 than people without diabetes.
Professor Wong aims to find out how important CXCR3 is in the Type 1 diabetes immune attack. She will test whether changes in the levels of CXCR3 cause B cells to go wrong in people with Type 1 diabetes.
To do this, the team will study B cells in blood samples from people who’ve had Type 1 diabetes for a long time, people newly diagnosed with Type 1 and people who don’t have diabetes. They plan to find out why levels of CXCR3 are lower in people with Type 1 diabetes and will look at what happens when they change the levels.
Professor Wong will then use pancreas samples from people with Type 1 diabetes to study what B cells and CXCR3 are doing inside the pancreas.
Potential benefit to people with diabetes
In the future, knowledge gained from this research will help scientist to develop treatments to stop the immune attack, find people at high risk of developing the condition, and ultimately prevent or stop Type 1 diabetes.