Team: Estefania Quesada-Masachs, Sakthi Rajendran
Type 1 diabetes (T1D), an autoimmune disease that usually affects young people, is on the rise worldwide. But we still don’t completely understand the underlying processes that drive the destruction of insulin-producing β cells in the pancreas leading to a lifelong dependency on insulin injections. A deeper knowledge of the immunological background of T1D is crucial to be able to offer better treatment options to patients.
Older findings indicated that autoantibodies and serum from T1D patients might directly harm β cells, but these studies relied on outdated technology and produced conflicting results. I’m investigating the impact of serum of T1D patients on pancreatic β cell function and survival. Initial studies are designed to confirm that sera isolated from T1D patients exert toxic effects on pancreatic β cells and that this effect is not observed with sera from healthy controls. I’m determining islet function by analyzing β cell proliferation and cellular death under different conditions. Subsequent experiments will seek to uncover the mechanisms that lead pancreatic β cell destruction. To that end, I will use serum from individuals with and without T1D and isolated human islets from non-diabetic controls. Confirming if autoantibodies and serum of T1D patients have a direct deleterious effect on insulin-producing β cells could be of major importance to understand T1D pathogenesis, and this could completely re-write how we treat T1D patients.