Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland found an association between peripheral T helper cells, a T-cell subset recently described, and type 1 diabetes. Specifically, the researchers found that circulating peripheral T helper cells increased in frequency in children recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, but also in healthy children who later developed this autoimmune disease that typically manifests in childhood.

In patients with type 1 diabetes, the immune system destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. One of the predictors of future development of the disease is the appearance of antibodies in the blood, which is caused by B cell activation against proteins in the pancreatic islets. In turn, follicular helper T cells activates B cells in lymphoid tissues.

The frequency of blood follicular helper T cells is increased in children close to the onset of type 1 diabetes, according to pevious work by the same group at University of Eastern Finland. A similar ability to activate B cells was recently attributed to peripheral helper T cells. The T-cell subset resembles follicular helper T cells, but they express receptors that enable them to migrate to inflamed tissues.

The study, published in Diabetologia, used samples from the Finnish DIPP study in which the development of type 1 diabetes is followed from birth in children with genetic risk for the disease. The researchers found in both children recently diagnosed type 1 diabetes and healthy, autoantibody-positive children who later developed type 1 diabetes, increased frequency of peripheral T helper cells in the blood. Interestingly, the frequency was greatly increased in the autoantibody-positive children.

Based on our results, it is possible that peripheral helper T cells may have a role in the development of type 1 diabetes. This information could be employed in the development of better methods to predict type 1 diabetes risk and new immunotherapies for the disease. However, more studies need to be conducted to verify our results and to further characterize the functionality of peripheral helper T cells,” early stage researcher Ilse Ekman from the University of Eastern Finland said.


Source: Science Daily