An attempt to discover why the body decides to attack islets in people with diabetes was made by the researchers at the Julia McFarlane Diabetes Research Centre.
It has long been known that an auto-immune response is somehow triggered in people with diabetes, so the researchers looked to rats to see why it takes a while for the body to begin attacking the islets.
The researchers found that the islet cell autoantigen (the body’s immune response trigger) is not present in the neonatal rats, and that grafts of these cells remained intact when transplanted into adult rats with diabetes.
In contrast, grafts of islets from adult rats without diabetes into other rats with diabetes were quickly destroyed.
It was demonstrated that the neonatal rats had not yet developed the antigen, and would not do so until they reached 30 days of age.
In contrast, however, another variety of rats expressed the autoantigen from birth, so the application of these findings to humans may be questionable.