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.
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