CFRI research has narrowed the hunt for molecules that regulate survival of the body’s insulin-producing cells.

In type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune cells kill its insulin-producing beta-cells in the pancreas. More than 25,000 Canadian children and adolescents have this autoimmune disease, with more than 3000 new pediatric cases reported annually.

Understanding how this autoimmune beta cell death occurs is critical to developing improved therapies.

Dr. Brad Hoffman, CFRI scientist and an assistant professor in the UBC Department of Surgery, led the research group discovered that the protein Myt3 is critical to beta-cell survival. Myt3 is a transcription factor, a protein that regulates gene expression.

Using animal models, they found that when immune cells kill insulin-producing beta-cells, it’s associated with very low levels of the Myt3 protein. Similarly, lowering levels of the Myt3 protein substantially reduced survival of the insulin-producing cells. In contrast, boosting the protein’s levels significantly improves the survival of these essential pancreatic 

“Myt3 may be a helpful therapeutic target for improving beta-cell survival in patients with diabetes,” says Dr. Hoffman.

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