Campus & Community

Research in brief

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Genetic defects give immune system green light to attack the pancreas

Scientists at Joslin Diabetes Center have found genetic regions that, when defective, allow the immune system to attack the pancreas – the first in a series of mis-steps that lead to type 1 diabetes. Armed with these findings, published March 22 in the journal Immunity, the researchers are now trying to home in on the exact genes involved, in mice and in human patients.

“The significance of this study is that we found the chromosomal regions involved and can now zero in on the precise genes,” said Diane Mathis, the study’s principal investigator. The genetic defect keeps the body from properly dealing with “errant” immune cells that it normally eliminates by a process called immunological tolerance. These immune cells then attack the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, mistaking them as foreign invaders.

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– Compiled by Alec Solomita