A study has found that the decreasing blood levels of a protein that helps control inflammation could be a sign that a child will develop diabetes.
Georgia Health Sciences University researchers are looking at blood levels of interleukin-1 receptor antagonist, or IL-1ra, in children because their genes put them at risk for type 1 diabetes.
They are also looking at diabetic mice missing IL-1ra to see how the protein deficiency affects immune function and destruction of insulin-producing islet beta cells.
“We want to know if we can use IL-1ra levels to identify children who will soon develop the disease, then use IL-1 inhibitors to prevent it,” Dr. Sharad Purohit, biochemist in the GHSU Center for Biotechnology and Genomic Medicine, said.
IL-1ra helps reduce inflammation and Purohit’s preliminary evidence suggests that low levels predict inflammation is increasing and the immune system is going to attack insulin-producing cells.
Il-1 inhibitors already are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, where inflammation destroys joints. Clinical trials are underway in type 1 diabetes and to see if an inhibitor can halt the islet cell destruction that occurs in type 1 diabetes as well.
Dr. Jin-Xiong She, Director of the Center for Biotechnology and Genomic Medicine said while acknowledging the inhibitor may improve type 1diabetes outcome, GHSU scientists want to know if it can also be used preventively.
IL-1ra competes with its counterpart IL-1beta for the IL-1 receptor. In type 1 diabetes, inflammation-promoting IL-1beta appears to be winning.
“It’s a balance; it’s a competition. There is always a balance between beta cell production and destruction and any process that can change the balance can push you to disease or help you recover from it,” she said.
“In this case, we believe that knowing the balance is off can actually help prevent disease,” she added.