Gary Robins writes,"the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology has created the first videos of the cell destruction that occurs in type 1 diabetes, an advance that could lead to better treatments for a disease that afflicts 3 million Americans."
The videos show immune system T-cells attacking insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas of research mice. In humans, this kind of attack can lead to type 1 diabetes, a potentially fatal disorder that requires insulin therapy.
"We now have a much better window into how type 1 diabetes occurs," says Ken Coppieters, who helped with the study as a researcher at the La Jolla Institute. He now works at Ghent University, Belgium.
"In the past, scientists would remove a pancreas and make sections of it. That gave you a snap shot of cellular destruction. But the videos let you see it happening. We're seeing the dynamics of a living organism."
The videos were created with the use of a still camera attached to a two-photon microscope. Researchers then edited together the images, creating a video that shows the sequence of events.
Coppieters said the videos already made it clear that, "The T-cells move randomly throughout the pancreas until they encounter the beta cells, where they slow down and release toxic substances that eventually kill the beta cells. What was most surprising is that this 'kiss of death' takes quite a while. Elaborate calculations indicated a timeline in the order of hours (to kill a few beta cells."
La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology, Journal of Clinical Investigation, Ghent University, American Diabetes Association
20 December 2011