A new study by scientists reveals the complete picture of the areas that the immune system attacks to cause type 1 diabetes.
The study was published in the journal Diabetes.
Diabetes UK termed the new findings by the researchers at the University of Lincoln as “impressive”.
Under the research study, the team discovered the fifth and final critical target at which the immune system takes aim to cause type 1 diabetes.
The research team said that the findings of the study could help develop new ways to prevent and treat diabetes.
Dr Michael Christie, who led the research at the University of Lincoln, told the BBC:
“With this new discovery, we have now finished identifying what the immune system is targeting – we have the complete picture.”
In type 1 diabetes, the immune system destroys the beta cells that make insulin, the hormone that keeps blood sugar levels under control.
Dr Christie said the present study could help transform care for type 1 patients,
“Once the immune system decides it wants to get rid of something it’s very hard to stop, so diabetes has proved to be a difficult disease to prevent.
“So we’re hoping that, by having identified the major targets in the disease, we can find ways to prevent it by blocking the immune response to these five proteins without leaving that person vulnerable to infections.
“With recent improvements in our understanding of the disease I’m very hopeful we’ll develop a treatment now; I have a lot more confidence than even five years ago”.
Earlier studies have shown that there were five key targets that the immune system attacks in patients suffering from type 1 diabetes. The targets are insulin, Glutamate decarboxylase, IA-2, Zinc transporter-8 and the final target is tetraspanin-7.
Earlier studies had identified some of the targets attacked by the immune system.
However, the final target, tetraspanin-7, had proved elusive for the researchers. The more technically named targets are the ones that are involved in secreting or storing the hormone insulin.
There is already a trial underway at King’s College London that is aiming to stall the progression of type 1.
Dr Emily Burns, from the charity Diabetes UK, said,
“In order to prevent type 1 diabetes, we need to fully understand how the immune response that damages insulin-producing cells develops in the first place.
“Dr Christie’s impressive research is helping us to do just that.
“We hope that the findings here will be used to improve the identification of those at risk of type 1 diabetes and, in the long term, inform the crucial development of therapies.”