Cure for type 1 may lie in our eyes
Monday, 5 January 2015
Could the cure for type 1 diabetes lie in the eyes of the beholder?
Scientists have discovered the eyes hold a different immune system to the body which could lead to a breakthrough for type 1 diabetes.
It has long been known that the immune system of humans does not have the same access to the eye – or the testis, brain and placenta for that matter – as it does to other organs of the body. However, only as of recently have scientists and researchers started looking into the possibility of using this “immune privilege” in their pursuit of a cure for type 1 diabetes. The eye is not only interesting to researchers guided by Per-Olof Berggren PhD, professor in experimental endocrinology at Karolinska Institute in Sweden, because of its potential to act as a shield, but also because it is the only perfectly transparent tissue in the body.
So what does all this mean? Essentially, this means that instead of injecting insulin into the body through the bloodstream, people living with type 1 diabetes could transplant pancreatic islet cells into their eyes, protecting the new cells from being attacked by the immune system.
The transparency allows scientists to see into the body, observing the integrity and survival of the islets, as well as how the immune system responds during attack.
Type 1 diabetes is caused by our immune system destroying beta cells that produce insulin.
The program, called Living Window, has had some success in mice and baboons, but has also revealed that the eye is not fully ‘privileged.’ While immune invasion in the eye is much lower than in other parts of the body, it still does exist.
Diabetes NSW& ACT said that the research was nevertheless full of promise.
Key findings are that the eye is attacked with much less aggression than other organs and that we have full view of the body responding. This is fantastic research and could be a real turning point in the plausible cure for type 1 diabetes.