How does type 1 diabetes start? New research implicates early metabolic defects in the pancreas

September 6, 2018

Dr. Fraser Scott and his team are studying  type 1 diabetes.Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is often diagnosed in the teenage years, but the disease process probably starts much earlier. New research led by Dr. Fraser Scott shows that cellular stress is linked to decreased insulin and increased glucagon production in the pancreas of prediabetic animals. The study involved a rat model in which about two thirds of the animals spontaneously develop T1D by adolescence. The team found that diabetes-prone animals displayed  a specific pattern of gene expression in their pancreas as early as eight days after birth. The pattern suggests that cells in the pre-diabetic pancreas may have trouble processing new proteins, and this may lead to cell death and inflammation long before the characteristic immune attack on the pancreas. Surprisingly, the liver showed similar patterns of gene expression, with some changes apparent even earlier than in pancreas. This suggests the liver could be a new target for diabetes research. 

“Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system attacks insulin-producing cells in the pancreas,” said Dr. Scott, senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and professor at the University of Ottawa. “This research sheds light on some of the very early factors that might contribute to this.”

See the Journal of Endocrinology for details. 

Authors: Crookshank JA*, Serrano D*, Wang GS, Patrick C, Morgan BS, Pare MF, Scott FW. *Shared first authors

Core resources: StemCore 

Funders: Dr. Scott’s research is possible because of generous donations to The Ottawa Hospital. This study was  supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, a Queen Elizabeth II Graduate Scholarship in Science and Technology and Cure Diabetes (Ottawa).

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Disease and research area tags: Diabetes, Gene expression

Scientific Program tags: Inflammation and Chronic Disease Program