Reprogramming Immune System Key for Type 1 Diabetes

by Mark Benson on March 24, 2012

Reprogramming immune system

Type 1 diabetes is characterized by the individual’s autoimmune system targeting and attacking insulin producing islet cells in the pancreas. When the white blood cells kill off these cells, the individual’s blood sugar levels go amuck as there is no means for cells to utilize the glucose available as the hormone insulin helps cells metabolize for fuel purposes blood glucose.

Now, a recent research from the University of Cardiff has developed new cells coming from cheek lining tissue that can correct disorders in the individual’s immune system. The university’s School of Dentistry working alongside fellow scientists from the Karolinka Institute of Stockholm has found a new group of cells that is able to suppress the actions of the immune system. Led by Professor Phil Stephens, the team extracted oral lining cells from inside patient’s cheeks and then replicated them through cloning. The research found through laboratory testing that even minute dosages of these cells can completely inhibit the activities of lymphocytes.

The newfound research finds that cheek cells have great and varied potential for future therapies for diseases related to the individual’s immune system. While current research still is focused on adult stem cells especially those found in the bone marrow, comparatively though, cheek tissue cells are stronger in their action.

According to Dr. Lindsay Davies of the Cardiff team, “At this stage, these are only laboratory results. We have yet to recreate the effect outside the laboratory and any treatments will still be many years away. However, these cells are extremely powerful and offer promise for combating a number of diseases. They are also easy to collect – bone marrow stem cells require an invasive biopsy, whereas we just harvest a small biopsy from inside the mouth.”

The findings were just published online in Stem Cells and Development.

Adult stem cells would be reprogrammed to create new islet cells. This still begs the question regarding the immune system attacking islet cells. On the other hand, this cellular reprogramming can either stand on its own or be part of the overall therapy for regenerating damaged pancreatic cells as well as correcting autoimmune disorders.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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