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Home > About JDRF & Our Impact > Our research > Research projects > Studying a type of immune cell to develop drugs to target it
Not to be confused with insulin-producing beta cells, B-cells are immune cells that exist throughout our bodies, including in the pancreas and the blood. Currently, we don’t know much about how B-cells behave during type 1. Joanne’s previous research suggests B-cells in the pancreas are linked to increased destruction of the beta cells.
Through this project, Joanne hopes to find new potential targets on B-cells in the pancreas for treatments for type 1. She also hopes to find these specific B-cells in the blood because this would be far easier to access for treatment than the pancreas.
A treatment for type 1 could be aimed at B-cells in the pancreas. A therapy that specifically targets the immune cells inside the pancreas (rather than all immune cells) would mean fewer side effects for people with type 1. To find out if this could work, we need to understand more about how the B-cells in the pancreas function in type 1.
First, Joanne will try to find proteins on the surface of the B-cells in the pancreas that are unique markers of those cells. These markers would allow researchers to identify and study B-cells more easily. To do this, she will study pancreas samples donated by people recently diagnosed with type 1 and pancreas samples from people of the same age who don’t have type 1.
Joanne will then take B-cells from white blood cells from five people without type 1 to understand how they work. She will expose the cells to various chemicals which stimulate the immune system. She will look at whether these B-cells become ‘activated’ in response to different chemicals. When immune cells are activated, they attack other cells and may release antibodies or chemicals which damage other cells. As well as looking out for this toxic release, Joanne will also see if the number of B-cells increases. She will also make a note of any different subsets of B-cells that she finds.
Joanne’s project will inform research to develop therapies for type 1 which target the B-cells. This small study could also act as a framework for a larger study to measure B-cell responses in people with type 1 in a clinical trial. Joanne’s research is essential for her research team’s larger grant application, which would include the recruitment of individuals with and at risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
We fund lots of immunology research, which is research that targets the immune system. Working alongside B-cells in the immune system are immune cells called T-cells. We are also funding Professor Lucy Walker at University College London who is trying to target and interfere with the T-cells that go rogue in type 1 diabetes.
This award will help to fund the next generation of immunotherapy research, enabling more efficient clinical trials, in more locations, so that promising treatments can reach people sooner.
This project aims to overcome two major roadblocks to developing and licensing immunotherapies for people newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
Dr Bewick is exploring ways to improve the health, performance and number of beta cells in the body, so that people with type 1 can be less reliant on insulin pumps and injections – or even, one day, live without them completely.
This project is looking at a new way to turn stem cells into beta cells in the lab, to better understand what conditions make this process happen efficiently.