We Finally Know All 5 Molecules That Are Attacked in Type 1 Diabetes
After 20 years of searching, scientists have finally identified the fifth and final molecule that the immune system attacks in order to trigger type 1 diabetes, completing the puzzle and providing new hope for treatments.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition, which means it's caused by a patient's own immune system attacking their body - in this case, their insulin-producing beta cells. For years, scientists have struggled to figure out exactly how the immune system attacks, and which targets it aims for, but now it looks like they've finally done it.
"With this new discovery, we have now finished identifying what the immune system is targeting - we have the complete picture," lead researcher Michael Christie from the University of Lincoln in the UK, told James Gallagher over at the BBC.
Now that we know which targets the immune system is gunning for, the hope is that we'll be able to figure out a way to stop this from happening.
Researchers have long been studying the antibodies - the tiny weapons that the immune systems of type 1 diabetics produce against their beta cells - but figuring out the specific, molecular targets of these antibodies is tricky. The team compares it to figuring out someone's identity from their silhouette.
Researchers had previously managed to identify four out of the five targets, but for the past 20 years they've struggled to nail down the fifth one, simply giving it the pseudonym of 'Glima' in the research. (As far as we can tell, that's a fancier alternative to throwing up your hands and saying, "Who knows, let's call it 'molecule X'.")
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