BRI researcher Karen Cerosaletti, PhD, and colleagues applied single-cell science to better understand type 1 diabetes, and ended up with some surprising and significant findings.
The team discovered that patients with type 1 diabetes have a unique set of T cells that have grown and multiplied, increasing the numbers of “bad” cells that can attack the pancreas. These unique T cells are rare in healthy individuals, but exist in significantly higher numbers in patients with type 1 diabetes.
The information can be used to decode the “bad” cells and find out what makes them tick.
Cerosaletti and the team were able to make the discoveries thanks to a breakthrough from the lab of BRI’s William Kwok, PhD, to capture the T cells from among thousands of other cells in a drop of blood. That method — paired with a pioneering new technology called single-cell RNA sequencing — allows scientists to study individual cells in extraordinary detail.
The information can be used to decode the “bad” cells and find out what makes them tick. These T cells are part of an army that attacks the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, destroying them so they can’t make insulin anymore.
Dr. Cerosaletti and her team are now working to understand when these unique T cells appear. If they can be found before a patient develops symptoms of type 1 diabetes, the presence of these cells could be used to monitor disease progression — or, better yet, serve as a target for treatments to preserve the body’s ability to produce insulin.More Stories