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A scan for type 1?

29 May 2012

JDRF funded researchers at Harvard Medical School have developed a technique that uses MRI scanning to predict type 1 diabetes in mice.

The study, which was led by Dr Diane Mathis and published in the prestigious Nature Immunology journal, injected mice with nanoparticles that became fluorescent when they came in contact with inflammed cells. The researchers could then use the MRI scan to identify the early signs of autoimmunity in the pancreas that leads to type 1.

Using this technique the team were able to identify at six to ten weeks after birth, which mice were going to develop type 1 and predict when they would begin to show symptoms. Interestingly, researchers also identified a molecule called CRIg, which seems to protect mice from developing type 1.

CRIg was only found in mice that did not develop type 1. On top of that, injecting CRIg into mice, lowered the amount of fluorescence the MRI picked up, so these mice were not predicted to develop type 1. 

This study both highlights the potential of MRI scans and also uncovers a possible new mechanism for protecting against type 1. However, it remains to be seen if either of these results can be translated into humans.

Rachel Connor, Head of Research Communication at JDRF said: ‘The use of MRI scans to identify the early signs of type 1 is an interesting approach. If this technique can be successfully translated to humans it would complement many experimental therapies that are aimed at stopping the immune attack that causes type 1 early to protect the remaining beta cells.’

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