Researchers made a major discovery in the treatment of Type I diabetes.
One study pin-pointed a potential cause of the disease, and it all depends on a type of protein.
Thomas Delong, a reasearch assistant professor of Colardo University School of Medicine has been studying T-Cells in diabetes. His years of working in the lab are about to pay off.
T-cells destroy insulin producing cells causing Type I diabetes. After 10 years of studying T-cells, Delong and his team have found one reason why the T-cells attack healthy cells -- a new type of protein.
"The immune system sees that and thinks it might be foreign because it's never seen that before," Delong said. "It attacks the junction of these proteins."
When the immune system attacks, it effectively kills the cells the body needs to produce insulin.
Delong's research is funded by the American Diabetes Association's program Pathway to Stopping Diabetes. The five-year grant is highly competitive, and Delong is the only one in Colorado to win it.
Delong is also highly motivated. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 12, setting him on a course to find answers. He wears a glucose monitor to track his own blood sugar levels.
"I became interested in studying and asking questions," Delong said. "Why does this happen to me? Why does my immune system turn against me?"
Now he has an answer, as well as a place to start stopping diabetes.
"If we are trying to find a cure for diabetes, we have to find a way to prevent the immune system from attacking," Delong said.
That's the next big challenge facing the researcher.
Delong's breakthrough came at an exciting time in diabetes research. Scientists recently grew new insulin producing cells from stem cells.
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