A new system based on this mechanism has been shown to vastly increase transplant efficiency, setting the stage for the development of powerful new treatment techniques. Currently, the most widely-used treatment for type 1 diabetes is the regular injection of insulin, a burdensome task for patients. Islet cell transplantation, whereby insulin-producing cells from a donor pancreas are transplanted into the patient's liver, is said to be a promising alternative approach.
With this discovery, the researchers have demonstrated that HMGB1 (high-mobility group box 1), a nuclear protein whose precise function has heretofore remained elusive, is in fact produced by the islet cells and directly triggers their early rejection. Based on this finding, the company developed a system to measure the level of HMGB1 in the blood and determine the onset of rejection. This is an information the company has used to establish a treatment four times more effective than earlier islet transplantation protocols.
While shedding light on a previously-unknown function of a major nuclear protein, the discovery of the HMGB1-mediated pathway also represents a breakthrough in diabetes research. For millions of diabetes sufferers around the world, the researchers feel its application to islet transplantation promises great improvements in this technique.