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UMass DCOE Scientist Sally Kent Contributed to a Newly Published Study of Proinsulin

The protein is selectively expressed by in beta cells and continues to be studied as a possible treatment for type 1 diabetes

Date Posted: Thursday, April 29, 2021


Newly published research in the scientific journal Frontiers in Endocrinology investigates potential immunotherapies for type 1 diabetes (T1D). The Kent Lab at UMass Chan Medical School’s Diabetes Center of Excellence provided essential information and materials. Dr. Maki Nakayama at the University of Colorado led the project with other collaborators from the University of Florida.

The scientists examined proinsulin, an abundant protein that is selectively expressed by insulin producing pancreatic beta cells. The protein continues to be studied as a possible treatment for T1D, to modify destructive immune cells thought to be responsible for the autoimmune process.

“This examination of the autoimmune response to a beta cell protein is important for the understanding of how insulin-producing beta cells are targeted in type 1 diabetes,” said Sally Kent, PhD, The George F. and Sybil H. Fuller Term Chair in Diabetes, Associate Professor of Medicine.

Research in the Kent Lab focuses on the autoimmune response in T1D. She studies autoreactive T cells, a specific immune cell known to attack beta cells, resulting in diabetes.

Dr. Kent's lab examines T cells directly from the source of pathology in human type 1 diabetes, pancreatic islets. She investigates living T cells directly from the islets of donors with T1D, to study their function and characteristics.

She works closely with the JDRF’s Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes (nPOD). Pancreatic cells and tissues are recovered from recently deceased donors with type 1 diabetes. Dr. Kent studies these valuable, donated tissues, to investigate key immunological and metabolic questions to understand how T1D develops. 

The ultimate goal of her research is that it helps to develop therapies that alter or suppress the autoimmune process resulting in T1D.

View the full publication in Frontiers in Endocrinology titled “Proinsulin-Reactive CD4 T Cells in the Islets of Type 1 Diabetes Organ Donors

Related Stories:

JDRF New England Center of Excellence Includes Five UMass Chan Medical School Scientists Working to Cure Type 1 Diabetes

Sally Kent Named Fuller Foundation Term Chair in Diabetes

Harlan and Kent Labs Resolved a 30 Year Old Debate by Locating Beta Cells in People with T1D Which Express Important Immune Pathway Gene Products

Pioneer Award presented to Dr. Kent by the Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes

Kent Lab isolates immune cells from the islets of donors with T1D

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