It is possible to use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to observe the inflammation in the pancreas which leads to type 1 diabetes.
Researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital, United States, investigated the use of ferumoxytol, a coated iron nanoparticle, to test if imaging pancreatic inflammation could be achieved in human volunteers.
Ferumoxytol leaks out of blood vessels in inflammation sites, with pancreatic inflammation directed against insulin-producing c cells a sign of developing type 1 diabetes.
11 newly-diagnosed type 1 diabetics were recruited for the study who displayed evidence that their pancreatic beta cells were being targeted by inflammation. A control group of 10 people without any indicators of diabetes were also recruited.
Ferumoxytol-MRI images of the patient group with diabetes were observed to have ferumoxytol accumulation in the pancreas, displaying evidence of continued inflammation. This was not observed in the control group.
Researchers believe these images could help develop a greater understanding of type 1 diabetes and its natural history, as well as defining which patients with inflammation will likely develop type 1 diabetes.
“There was also a large amount of variation between individuals, which aligns with what you see clinically. That’s never been shown in living humans before,” said Jason Gaglia, M.D., M.M.Sc., an Assistant Investigator in the Section of Immunobiology at Joslin.
“It might make sense to scan people in that group to see who is likely to progress and who isn’t. Those who are progressing may be the ones you would want to recruit for research on immunomodulatory therapies.”

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