New research into Th17 cells, which are a type of T cell that is found in abundance in children with type 1 diabetes, may lead to new treatments for the disease. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the body destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, that regulate glucose .
The research team, from the University of British Columbia and the Child and Family Research Institute (CFRI) at BC Children’s Hospital, have identified the role of the T cell, which they hope will lead to new treatments for diabetic children .
Rusung Ta, lead researcher, pathology professor in the UBC Faculty of Medicine and co-head of the Immunity in Health and Disease research cluster at CFRI, said “T cells are white blood cells and key members of the immune system that control infections . In healthy individuals, Th17 cells provide a strong defense against bacteria and viruses by guiding the immune system to strongly attack infected targets within our bodies.”
The study, which was published in the Journal of Immunology, found that, since Th17 has already been linked to other autoimmune diseases, such as Crohns disease, it is most likely that these cells can be very harmful, and indeed there are ongoing clinical trials using treatments that were designed to block them.
Tan added “The elevated levels of Th17 cells in type 1 diabetes patients suggest that these cells may also play a key role in the early development of this disease in young patients. This discovery opens the door to new treatments for childhood diabetes that target Th17 cells.”

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