Recent research has uncovered an unusual type of white blood cell that could be the main driver of autoimmunity in type 1 diabetes. New research suggests that a hybrid cell may be behind type 1 diabetes. Many experts believe that type 1 diabetes is a type of condition that occurs when the immune system attacks the body's own tissue.
However, although evidence from numerous studies strongly suggests that type 1 diabetes has autoimmune origins, the underlying biological mechanisms have not been clear. The new study is the work of scientists at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD, and collaborators from other institutions, including the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY. In a Cell paper, the authors describe how they found an "unexpected" hybrid of B and T immune cells that appears "to be involved in mediating autoimmunity."
They discuss how the discovery breaks the "paradigm" that cells of the adaptive immune system can only be T or B cells. The finding also challenges doubts that some scientists have cast on the idea that a "rogue hybrid" or "X cell" drives the autoimmune response behind type 1 diabetes.
"The cell we have identified," says study co-author Abdel-Rahim A. Hamad, an associate professor of pathology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, "is a hybrid between the two primary workhorses of the adaptive immune system, B lymphocytes and T lymphocytes."
He explains that not only did they find the so-called X cell, but that they also found "strong evidence for it being a major driver of the autoimmune response believed to cause type 1 diabetes."
However, he cautions that their findings are not enough to prove that the hybrid cell directly causes type 1 diabetes. Further studies should now pursue this aim.