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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 
System Autoimmunity

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 
21, 2003.

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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