Scientists link Type 1 diabetes and Sjogren’s syndrome

A high-power microscope view of an Islet of Langerhans, which produces insulin, in pancreatic tissue. Image: Shutterstock.

A new group of immune cells is causing double trouble.

Dr Cecile King and Dr Helen McGuire, from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, have discovered a new group of immune cells which link the autoimmune diseases Type 1 diabetes and Sjogren’s syndrome.

Autoimmune diseases occur when our bodies’ defences start attacking their own cells and tissues, rather than targeting any invading pathogens. In the case of Type 1 diabetes, the body attacks the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, while Sjogren’s syndrome causes it to assault its own salivary glands.

The researchers noticed high numbers of a unique immune cell in mice with Type 1 diabetes and Sjogren’s syndrome. Dr King said in the press release “We know from our research in mice that if you target these cells, you can completely prevent immune mediated destruction of the salivary glands and pancreas.

“In other words, you can prevent mice that are genetically programmed to develop Sjogren’s syndrome and Type 1 diabetes from ever developing those diseases.”

Further research with Associate Professor David Fulcher, Westmead Hospital, revealed that patients with Sjogren’s syndrome also had high levels of these immune cells. The new cells are usually located in the gut, but are rarer in the other organs of a healthy body.

They have been identified as a sub-class of “˜T helper cells’- the white blood cells that assist the other immune cells. Dr King calls these cells “˜TCCR9 cells’, as they co-express interleukin-21 (IL-21) and CCR9, a cell surface receptor that switches on when the cells migrate through the gut, distinguishing them from other T helper cells.

Dr King explains “When the body shifts into disease mode, TCCR9 cells are activated in the gut, and then disseminate to the accessory organs of the digestive system ““ the pancreas and salivary glands. When we looked at 15 patients with Sjogren’s syndrome, we found there was a fivefold increase of these cells in their blood.”

The researchers intend to extend their study of patients with Sjogren’s syndrome, as well as determining if patients with Type 1 diabetes also have high levels of these cells. Dr King says “This will determine whether these cells could become a biomarker of disease as well as a therapeutic target for patients with both with Type 1 diabetes and Sjogren’s syndrome.”

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  1. i am very interested about this matter cz im also a diabetic person since year 2002..i want to knw the proper foods en wonderful medicine to cure that kind of illness…thank you….

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