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[IP] Kids Researchers Pinpoint Link Between DM & Nervous System
Original Source: University Of Toronto
Date Posted: 2003-01-21
Sick Kids Researchers Pinpoint Link Between Diabetes And Nervous
TORONTO - Researchers at The Hospital for Sick Children (HSC) and the
University of Toronto (U of T) have extended their earlier discovery
of an unsuspected link between Type 1 diabetes and nervous system
autoimmunity, such as that found in multiple sclerosis (MS). This
research has identified new therapeutic targets for diabetes
prevention, and a strategy for diagnostic tests for early detection
of diabetes risk. The research is described in the February issue of
the scientific journal Nature Medicine, available online on January
The research group of HSC's Dr. Michael Dosch traced the link between
Type 1 diabetes and nervous system autoimmunity to nervous tissue
surrounding insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. They
unexpectedly found that it is these nervous system structures that
are first destroyed in the earliest stages of diabetes, with
autoimmunity subsequently veering off to attack insulin-producing
cells. Modification of the early nervous tissue attack prevented
subsequent diabetes in the major animal model for the disease.
"This study maps the puzzling link between Type 1 diabetes and
nervous system autoimmunity," said Dr. Dosch, the study's principal
investigator, an HSC senior scientist and a professor of Paediatrics
and Immunology at U of T. "In focusing previous research efforts
strictly on insulin-producing beta cells, we may have missed the
start of the diabetes process in its early, perhaps earliest, stages.
The new data may shed a different light on the process, providing new
targets for preventive treatments and new, early markers for the
detection of disease risk, a prerequisite for intervention
Dr. Dosch's research group used a vaccine-type approach to alter
autoimmunity against the pancreatic nervous system cells in mice, and
they observed that subsequent diabetes development was reduced by a
large margin. This implied a critical role of early neuronal
autoimmunity in the process that eventually leads to beta cell
destruction and then to diabetes.
The research team included co-lead authors Shawn Winer and Hubert
Tsui, PhD students at U of T, Dr. Pamela Ohashi from the Ontario
Cancer Institute, Dr. Pere Santamaria at the University of Calgary,
and Dr. Dorothy Becker, University of Pittsburgh. The group also
collaborated with SYNoX Pharma, a Toronto proteomics research and
development company, to first identify and develop diagnostic tests.
These are based on the SYNoX discovery that the early phase of
autoimmune attack leaves traces (protein markers) that can be
detected in blood. Work in Dr. Dosch's lab, in collaborating labs in
Europe and the US, and at SYNoX, is focused on refining the detection
of these traces into lab tests that may possibly diagnose diabetes
risk much earlier than is presently possible.
"SYNoX's unique Proteomics Discovery PlatformTM helped in the
discovery of a family of markers, unexpected in diabetes, that may
lead to new therapeutics and diagnostics for Type 1 diabetes, a new
target disease for SYNoX. Once proven in a larger clinical trial, the
diagnostics, in a rapid and affordable doctor's-office format, could
be applied for mass screening of diabetes risk in every five to 10-
year-old child," said SYNoX Chairman and Chief Scientific Officer,
Dr. George Jackowski.
"This research may also open a new door for understanding the
persistent mystery in autoimmune diseases: why does the immune system
attack its own tissue? It now seems possible that the nervous system
and cells that separate nervous system from other tissue in the body
may play an unsuspected, critical role in this process," added Dr.
This research was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health
Research, the National Institutes of Health (US), the Renziehausen
Fund, and The Hospital for Sick Children Foundation.
The Hospital for Sick Children, affiliated with the University of
Toronto, is Canada's most research-intensive hospital and the largest
centre dedicated to improving children's health in the country. Its
mission is to provide the best in family-centred, compassionate care,
to lead in scientific and clinical advancement, and to prepare the
next generation of leaders in child health. For more information,
please visit http://www.sickkids.ca .
Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued for
journalists and other members of the public. If you wish to quote
from any part of this story, please credit University Of Toronto as
the original source.
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