08 June 2020

Regulation of regulators

A new method of treating type I diabetes has been confirmed

Svetlana Maslova, Hi-tech+

Insulin production is controlled by the islet cells of the pancreas. Failures in the work of regulatory T cells of our body (Treg) can lead to the fact that effector T cells will perceive beta cells as a threat and begin to destroy them. When a large number of islet cells are damaged, the pancreas can no longer regulate blood glucose levels, which leads to the development of type I diabetes mellitus. A new approach in treatment is aimed at blocking this process.

Interest in the use of Treg cells as cell therapy to prevent the development of autoimmune diseases is growing. In a new paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine (Honaker et al., Gene editing to induce FOXP3 expression in human CD4+ T cells leads to a stable regulatory phenotype and function), scientists from Seattle corrected the defects of Treg cells so that they could function on a par with healthy ones.

The strategy is aimed at increasing the expression of the FOXP3 gene, which is the main transcriptor factor of Treg cells. The experiments were carried out on human blood samples from which Treg was isolated. Testing on human tissue samples and mouse models showed the effectiveness of the modified cells.

"Our results showed that genetic modification aimed at ensuring stable expression of FOXP3 is sufficient to create functional Treg-like cells for therapy," said study co–author David Rawlings.

The treatment will consist in injecting edited Treg cells to a patient with diabetes, which will allow the pancreas to work properly, the authors explain. Potentially, the results of treatment should be long-term and eliminate the need for daily insulin intake.

Currently, the team is preparing to conduct the first stage of clinical trials.

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