Germs Might Be To Blame For Triggering Type 1 Diabetes

Germs could promote the development of type 1 diabetes by prompting the body’s immune system to kill insulin-producing cells, according to a new study conducted by Cardiff University researchers.

Previous research has identified killer T-cells - a type of white blood cell that usually protects people from germs - as playing a large role in type 1 diabetes by destroying cells that produce insulin. While killer T-cells are quite adept at killing germs, sometimes they mistakenly attack tissues, which can have devastating effects.

"During type 1 diabetes, killer T-cells are thought to attack pancreatic beta cells,” said professor Andy Sewell, lead author of the study. “These cells make the insulin that is essential for control of blood sugar levels. When beta cells are destroyed, patients have to inject insulin every day to remain healthy."

Bacteria activation

Researchers claim that the T-cells responsible for causing type 1 diabetes are triggered by certain bacteria, and this new discovery could reveal methods for diagnosing, preventing or stopping the disease.

Dissimilar to type 2 diabetes, type 1 is unconnected with diet and often strikes young adults and children. Researchers are hopeful that this new research will shed more light on what causes type 1 diabetes in the first place.

"We still have much to learn about the definitive cause of type 1 diabetes, and we know that there are other genetic and environmental factors at play,” said Dr. David Cole, second author of the study. "This research is significant as it pinpoints, for the first time, an external factor that can trigger T-cells that have the capacity to destroy beta cells."

Source: Cardiff University

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