Researchers hope their findings may lead to the development of treatments that could prevent type 1 diabetes developing.
Spotting early signs of the development of type 1 diabetes could lead to new treatments that could prevent the condition from developing, following a discovery by researchers.
In most cases type 1 diabetes is diagnosed when the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas - the islets of Langerhans - have already been destroyed by an autoimmune attack.
There are currently no treatments available to prevent the disease developing.
However, a recently published study, part-funded by DRWF’s sister organisation Diabetes Wellness Sweden, has looked at ways to intervene in order to save the beta cells by discovering early signs of the condition.
The study by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in the US was recently published in Diabetologia, the scientific journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD).
Researchers wanted to understand the mechanisms that can lead to the development of type 1 diabetes having found that the condition is often only discovered too late, when the beta cells are already destroyed.
To identify early autoimmune markers and the development of type 1 diabetes researchers transplanted islets of Langerhans to the anterior chamber of the eye.
Researchers found that the islets showed signs of inflammation long before other indicators of the disease appeared in a study of transplanted islets of Langerhans.
Professor Per-Olof Berggren
Per-Olof Berggren, Professor at the Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery and the Rolf Luft Research Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and Visiting Professor at the Diabetes Research Institute, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine (USA), and study author, said: “This information is important as it means that treatment can be given before the insulin-producing cells have been destroyed in the autoimmune attack, which is imperative if patients are to retain their ability to secrete insulin.”
Professor Berggren and his colleague Dr Midhat Abdulreda at the Diabetes Research Institute, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine monitored the graft in real time before and after the development of type 1 diabetes and found that the transplanted islets were attacked by the immune system in a way similar to those in the liver during type 1 diabetes.
Researchers looked for signs of inflammation and hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) and used systematic processes to attempt to delay the attack on islet cells.
Professor Berggren added: “Our study demonstrates the possibility of using eye-transplanted islets of Langerhans as a tool for improving the development of new drugs and, in combination with the local administration of immunosuppressive drugs, as a new clinical transplantation strategy for patients with type 1 diabetes.”
Researchers concluded: “The current findings highlight the value of eye-transplanted islets in studying early type 1 diabetes development and underscore the need for timely intervention to halt disease progression.”