The immune system is not immune to mistakes. In type 1 diabetes, it wrongly identifies beta cells (large, green) within the pancreas as pathogens. It attacks and destroys these cells, while leaving other cells in the pancreas (small, blue) untouched. Beta cells produce a hormone, called insulin, which controls the levels of sugar in the blood. Insulin stimulates our body’s cells to absorb sugar by opening up shuttles, called transport proteins (red), on the cells’ edge. Diabetic patients can manage their sugar levels with injections of insulin, but may suffer complications. If doctors could diagnose and treat the condition earlier, they could reduce such complications and extend a patient’s life. Scientists at the MRC’s Clinical Sciences Centre have shown that when beta cells die, they release large quantities of a molecule, called microRNA 375, into the blood. A simple blood test could detect this molecule years before symptoms develop.
Written by Deborah OakleyImage produced from work by Mathieu Latreille The MRC’s Clinical Sciences Centre Copyright held by original author Research published in Journal of Molecular Medicine, May 2015 You can also follow BPoD on Twitter and Facebook