BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: type 1 diabetes

Breakthrough in Type 1 Diabetes Treatments!

A new study demonstrates that a gene therapy approach can lead to long-term survival of functional beta cells as well as normal blood glucose levels for extended periods of time in mice with type 1 diabetes. Researchers used an adeno-associated viral (AAV) vector to deliver to the mouse pancreas two proteins, Pdx1 and MafA, which reprogrammed the alpha cells into functional, insulin-producing beta cells.

Beta-cell replacement therapy is likely to fail because adding new cells will fall victim to the same autoimmunity that destroyed the original cells. The solution is to reprogram other cell types to functional beta-like cells, which can produce insulin but are distinct from beta cells and therefore are not attacked by the immune system.

Researchers Gittes and first author Xiangwei Xiao of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine engineered an AAV vector to deliver proteins called Pdx1 and MafA, which support beta cell maturation, proliferation, and function, to the mouse pancreas. The reason why they picked alpha cells to reprogram is because they are plentiful, resemble beta cells, and are in the correct location, all of these factors facilitate reprogramming of cells.

Comparing the gene expression patterns of normal beta cells and insulin-producing cells derived from alpha cells, the researchers confirmed that it was nearly complete cellular reprogramming. The gene therapy produced normal blood glucose levels in diabetic mice, for typically four months. Also, the therapy was able to generate functional insulin-producing cells from human alpha cells.

Unfortunately, the mice did eventually return to the diabetic state, suggesting that it would not cure the disease. But viral vectors can be delivered directly to the human pancreas through a routinely performed non-surgical endoscopic procedure; however, this procedure can elicit pancreatic inflammation. Also, the longevity of the treatment is unknown considering that some studies suggest that processes in mice are highly accelerated. Therefore, four months could translate to several years for humans according to Gittes.

Currently, researchers are testing the therapy on non-human primates. If they are able to produce intended results, researchers will begin work with the FDA to get approval for use of this viral gene therapy for diabetic, type 1 and 2, patients. This could be the breakthrough that leads to the cure for diabetes!

MAIT Lymphocytes: An Asset to the Future of Type 1 Diabetes


Well, let’s start with what exactly Type 1 Diabetes is. Most notably found in young children (peak ages are 4-7 and 8-10), type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little to no insulin. Insulin production is crucial because it allows sugar to pass through your cells, lowers the amount of sugar in your blood, and when your blood sugar drops, the pancreas secretes insulin. Can you imagine what this might feel like as a young child?

However, the detection of MAIT lymphocytes could serve as new biomarkers for early detection and prevention for the illness. If you didn’t know, MAIT cells are found in the blood, liver, lungs, and mucosa, defending against microbial activity and infection. Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong illness without a cure, therefore with this crucial discovery, I believe that this will be one of the great steps toward the findings of a potential cure. This lead can serve as an outstanding aspect to the enhancement of one’s quality of life.

Experiments have been conducted where the presence of the MAIT cells, within the data, showed a link between the MAIT cells and metabolic disorders. This paved the way for the discovery of how MAIT cells are directly linked to the destruction of pancreatic beta cells

Additionally, a functional defect in MAIT cells is linked to the modifications of the gut mucosa which is seen in type 1 diabetes patients. The team’s discovery will hopefully translate to a developmental process dedicated to searching for new strategies to treat type 1 diabetes. Overall, we now know that the MAIT cells are early biomarkers for this form of diabetes due to the changes they undergo before the presence of the disease is developed. Do you think more break-throughs will arise in this field? Will there eventually be a formal prevention for type 1 diabetes? Finally, do you think there will ever be a cure to diabetes as a whole?

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