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International Journal of Experimental Diabetes Research
Volume 2 (2001), Issue 1, Pages 3-17

Approaches to Type 1 Diabetes Prevention by Intervention in Cytokine Immunoregulatory Circuits

Department of Medicine, University of Alberta, 430 Heritage Medical Research Centre, Alberta, Edmonton T6G 2S2, Canada

Copyright © 2001 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus, like other organ specific autoimmune diseases, results from a disorder of immunoregulation. T cells specific for pancreatic islet ß cell constituents (autoantigens) exist normally but are restrained by regulatory mechanisms (self-tolerant state). When regulation fails, ß cell-specific autoreactive T cells become activated and expand clonally. Current evidence indicates that islet ß cell-specific autoreactive T cells belong to a T helper 1 (Th1) subset, and these Th1 cells and their characteristic cytokine products, IFNγ and IL-2, are believed to cause islet inflammation (insulitis) and ß cell destruction. Immune-mediated destruction of ß cells precedes hyperglycemia and clinical symptoms by many years because these become apparent only when most of the insulin-secreting ß cells have been destroyed. Therefore, several approaches are being tested or are under consideration for clinical trials to prevent or arrest complete autoimmune destruction of islet ß cells and insulin-dependent diabetes. Approaches that attempt to correct underlying immunoregulatory defects in autoimmune diabetes include interventions aimed at i) deleting ß cell autoreactive Th1 cells and cytokines (IFNγ and IL-2) and/or ii) increasing regulatory Th2 cells and/or Th3 cells and their cytokine products (IL-4, IL-10 and TGFßI).