Georgia researchers believe that a powerful enzyme that inhibits or modifies immune system response could be the basis for a vaccine administered to children at high risk for developing type 1 diabetes.
Unlike most vaccines, which work by “teaching” the immune system to attack something, this one would instruct it to avoid attacking pancreatic beta cells-the haywire autoimmune response responsible for the onset of type 1.
The enzyme, called indoleomine 2,3-dioxegenase (IDO), is an immune system inhibitor that fetuses use to fend off or prevent an immune response directed against them by their mothers’ bodies.
In their experiments with IDO, scientists at the Medical College of Georgia Immunotherapy Center in Augusta bundled the enzyme with dendritic cells, which are the cells that “tell” the body’s powerful T cells to launch an attack. Apparently the dendritic cells’ association with IDO was enough to keep the body’s powerful immune system warriors pacified.
Children at risk of developing type 1 do not have any or enough IDO associated with their dendritic cells, which leads them to invite T cell attacks on pancreatic beta cells. A vaccine that could increase dendritic cells’ association with IDO would prevent, perhaps permanently, the T cell attack that eventually destroys the insulin-producing capability in patients’ pancreases and signals the onset of type 1.