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A way to isolate and kill defective immune system T-cells that cause insulin-dependent diabetes is being researched by scientists using tumour necrosis factor (TNF).
Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston have found that such treatment leads to the death of these wayward T-cells while leaving other parts of the immune system unharmed.
The new research involved T-cells from 1,000 patients with type 1 diabetes, other autoimmune disorders, and healthy volunteers.
Scientists found that a synthetic chemical similar to TNF caused “killer” T-cells in diabetics and patients with other autoimmune conditions to self-destruct, while T-cells from healthy participants were left unharmed.
Further experiments with blood samples from several diabetic patients confirmed that only “killer” T-cells, that threatened the pancreas were targeted by the treatment. Others programmed to attack two common viruses were not affected.
In a previous study, diabetic mice given the treatment regenerated healthy islet cells and produced normal levels of insulin. Effectively, the mice were cured.
Dr Denise Faustman said: “Our studies showed that we could selectively kill the defective autoimmune cells. These results show that the same selective destruction can occur in human cells and connect our animal studies with the protocol in our clinical trial”.
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