A form of cellular stress affects insulin producing beta cells prior to the immune system targeting and killing off these cells.
The research, from the Indiana University School of Medicine, was funded by type 1 diabetes charity, the JDRF. The researchers examined a mouse model and observed that pancreatic beta cells became stressed, activating a cell death pathway causing the animals to lose their beta cells.
The form of stress is known as endoplasmic reticulum stress (ER stress). The endoplasmic reticulum is the part of cells where proteins are produced. In beta cells, insulin is produced in the ER and they are very sensitive to ER stress. The research showed that if the stress is not properly resolved, there can be defects in insulin secretion and an autoimmune attack, leading to type 1 diabetes, can result.
Dr Raghavendra Mirmira, one of the study’s lead researchers, said: “What we observed in the mice is consistent with clinical observations of type 1 diabetes in people where defects in insulin secretion precede overt diabetes.” The research could provide a new method of delaying progress of type 1 diabetes in the early stages by alleviating ER stress in pancreatic cells.

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