Touching Lives - March 2005
Key findings for diabetes
In Type 1 diabetes the body lacks insulin, and sufferers require daily insulin injections.The disease is very common (affecting approximately one in 300 of the population), usually starts in childhood and often leads to blindness and kidney failure.
Reasons for the occurrence of disease are not fully understood, but it is thought the body’s own defence system plays a role by attacking the insulin-producing cells.
Before the three-year Action Medical Research study, the evidence for this was indirect and the immune cells involved were unclear. Led by Professor Mark Peakman at King’s College London, the team discovered a marked difference between the way the bodies of healthy individuals and newly diagnosed diabetics responded to a virus known as Coxsackie B4.
A virus is like an enemy invasion which the body fights by using an ‘infantry’ of anti-viral cells called effector cells, that counteract the virus. At the same time the body also keeps in reserve ‘troops’ of memory cells that can quickly turn into effector cells the next time the virus is encountered.
This research found there were significantly more effector cells among the diabetics than the healthy controls. Importantly, the differences were most pronounced the more recently the diabetic had been diagnosed.
Professor Peakman and his group have gone on to identify some of the molecular targets in the virus, and hope this will make early diagnosis and monitoring of Coxsackie infection a reality.This would help to confirm any relationship between the virus and diabetes.
^Professor Peakman sees the Action Medical Research studies as key elements of the progress being made in diabetes research.^
“We are attacking this disease from both sides, by looking at early viral triggers and by trying out vaccines that may work when the disease has already taken hold.We are very excited about the prospect of taking this basic science work to patients”.
Action Medical Research congratulates Professor Peakman and his team on their new findings.