Type 1 Diabetes: Final Piece of the Puzzle Discovered
type 1 diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes: Final Piece of the Puzzle Discovered

Scientists successfully revealed a complete picture of the areas which are attacked by the immune system and cause the type 1 diabetes

Scientists Discover the Final Piece of the Puzzle in Type 1 Diabetes – Tetraspanin-7


Scientists have finally succeeded in revealing a complete picture of the areas which are attacked by the immune system to cause the type 1 diabetes.

The study was published in Diabetes journal. It states that scientists have discovered the fifth and final critical protein which is attacked by the immune system.

This fifth protein was discovered by a team from University of Lincoln. According to them the findings are a major breakthrough in the fight against diabetes. It will not only help in developing new ways to treat the disease but also prevent it.


Diabetes UK said the findings are very impressive.


The human immune system destroys the beta cells that make insulin in human body in type 1 diabetes. Insulin is a hormone that is responsible for keeping sugar level in blood under control.

Unique antibodies from different patients suffering from type 1 diabetes were studied. Those studies showed that there are 5 key proteins that were attacked by the immune system. But working them out was exactly like finding a needle from hay stack.

Some of the targets of the immune system were discovered long ago. But the final one was hidden for over two decades.

The research was led by Dr. Michael Christie at the University of Lincoln. He told the BBC that they have now the complete picture of what happens in type 1 diabetes.

“With this new discovery, we have now finished identifying what the immune system is targeting – we have the complete picture.”

Here are the 5 targets of the immune system in type 1 diabetes:

  • Insulin
  • Glutamate decarboxylase
  • IA-2
  • Zinc transporter-8
  • And the final piece of the puzzle, tetraspanin-7


King’s College London is already using the knowledge of these targets in creating medicines that may stall the progression of type 1 diabetes.

Dr. Christie also said that having a complete picture means we can transform the care for type 1 patients.

He said:

“Once the immune system decides it wants to get rid of something it’s very hard to stop, so diabetes has proved to be a difficult disease to prevent.

“So we’re hoping that, by having identified the major targets in the disease, we can find ways to prevent it by blocking the immune response to these five proteins without leaving that person vulnerable to infections.

“With recent improvements in our understanding of the disease I’m very hopeful we’ll develop a treatment now; I have a lot more confidence than even five years ago.”


What is Diabetes?

There are two main types of diabetes:

Type 1 Diabetes

In type 1 diabetes the pancreas does not produce any insulin. It can develop at any age, but usually appears before the age of 40, particularly in childhood. Around 10% of all diabetes is type 1, but it is the most common type of childhood diabetes, so it is sometimes called juvenile diabetes or early-onset diabetes.



Type 2 Diabetes

In type 2 diabetes the pancreas does not produce enough insulin – or the body’s cells do not react to insulin. Type 2 diabetes is largely caused by poor lifestyle. Around 90% of adults with diabetes have type 2, and it tends to develop later in life than type 1.



Dr. Emily Burns – from the charity Diabetes UK – said:

“In order to prevent type 1 diabetes, we need to fully understand how the immune response that damages insulin-producing cells develops in the first place.

“Dr. Christie’s impressive research is helping us to do just that.

“We hope that the findings here will be used to improve the identification of those at risk of type 1 diabetes and, in the long term, inform the crucial development of therapies.”

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