The scientists have finally managed to locate the locations within the immune system in which attacks can lead to type 1 diabetes.
The findings were published in the journal Diabetes and indicated the 5th critical target where the immune system aims.
The University of Lincoln team is hopeful that the findings will assist in the development of new ways to prevent as well as treat the disease.
Diabetes UK said the findings were “impressive”.
What happens in type 1 diabetes is that the immune system will destroy beta cells that are responsible for making insulin. This is a hormone that controls the levels of sugar in the blood.
Studies that looked into the unique antibodies that were made by patients having type 1 revealed 5 key targets that are attacked by the immune system.
The targets that proved elusive were as follows:
- Zinc transporter – 8
- Glutamate decarboxylase
- tetraspanin – 7 (final piece of the type 1 diabetes puzzle)
The ones that have more technical names secrete or store hormone insulin.
Kings College London is already using the findings with an aim of stalling type 1 progression.
Dr Emily Burns, from the charity Diabetes UK, said: “In order to prevent type 1 diabetes, we need to fully understand how the immune response that damages insulin-producing cells develops in the first place.
“Dr Christie’s impressive research is helping us to do just that.
“We hope that the findings here will be used to improve the identification of those at risk of type 1 diabetes and, in the long term, inform the crucial development of therapies.”