Scientists Finally Understand How Type 1 Diabetes Works


Medical researchers have been at war with a number of diseases for decades. As much as they work on them and as many resources as are allocated to the fight against them (not that many, at least in some cases), we don’t seem to be making too much progress in regards to conditions like cancer, heart disease, or diabetes.

And speaking of diabetes, scientists aren’t even sure how the entire affair works in the first place, or at least they weren’t until today. According to a study from the University of Lincoln in the UK, scientists finally understand how type 1 diabetes works. And now that they know that, they’re hoping they can come up with a cure.

Current status of diabetes

While it had been known for some time that type 1 diabetes works by having the immune system attack four molecules in the pancreas, it was suspected that there also was a fifth molecule involved in the whole affair. This is because the four molecules about which the world of medicine knew could explain the effects of the disease on their own.

Four of the autoantigens, as the molecules are called, are primarily used to produce and to regulate insulin levels, while the fifth is insulin itself. Treated with insulin injections, type 1 diabetes prevents the body from generating the substance and stops it from reaching different areas of the body. Not taking the insulin injections can lead to serious, life-long consequences.

Research on the fifth molecule

Finally understanding exactly how the disease works, the team of scientists from the UK and Italy discovered the fifth molecule affected by the condition – tetraspanin-7. Not only will the fact that the scientists know all five molecules affect detection methods for the condition, but it might also help in developing a proper treatment other than constant insulin injections.

Each of the five targeted molecules – insulin, the Glutamate decarboxylase enzyme, the two proteins IA-2 and Zinc transporter-8, and the recently discovered tetraspanin-7 – is targeted by a different antibody. Current diabetes tests are performed by testing for the antibodies that have turned on the body, and a similar procedure was used to identify the tetraspanin-7 in the first place.

The team says that they’ve been at it for quite some time, and that they even gave up at one point. As they were considering failure, because the initial tests came out negative and because so many different groups all over the world had tried the same thing fruitlessly, the team decided to try a new approach. The new approach worked flawlessly, and here they are today, ready to bring forth a new era of diabetes treatments.

Image source: Pixabay

About Carol Harper

Carol Harper began her career as a screenwriter before turning to journalism. Before earning her Bachelor of Arts with a major in Creative Writing, Carol travelled across Europe and Asia to find both herself and inspiration. She enjoys covering health & science topics.
  • Samantha Harley

    Type 1 diabetes is not the same as type 2 diabetes. In July of 2015. it was discovered that I got type 2 diabetes, By the end of the July month. I was given a prescription for the Metformin, I stated with the ADA diet and followed it completely for several weeks but was unable to get my blood sugar below 140, Without results to how for my hard work. I really panicked and called my doctor. His response?? Deal with it yourself, I started to feel that something wasn’t right and do my own research, Then I found Rachel’s great blog (google ” HOW I FREED MYSELF FROM THE DIABETES ” ) .. I read it from cover to cover and I started with the diet and by the next morning. my blood sugar was 100, Since then. I get a fasting reading between the mid 70s and 80s, My doctor was very surprised at the results that. the next week. he took me off the Metformin drug, I lost 30 pounds in my first month and lost more than 6 inches off my waist and I’m able to work out twice a day while still having lots of energy. The truth is that we can get off the drugs and help myself by trying natural methods..