Type 1 diabetes is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Insulin is a hormone needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy. The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown. Usually, the body’s own immune system mistakenly destroys the insulin-producing cells (called beta cells) in the islets of Langerhans of the pancreas.
She runs a lab focused on increasing our understanding of the immunopathogenesis of human type 1 diabetes in order to develop novel therapies aimed at increasing insulin secretion and stopping the autoimmune attack.
We spoke with Dr. Rodriguez-Calvo about her recent publication investigating interferon sensors in the islets of Langerhans and the importance of whole slide imaging for the study and analysis of pancreas pathology.
What new discoveries did you present in your recent publication?
We observed that the interferon sensors MxA, PKR and HLA-I are expressed in the islets of Langerhans in type 1 diabetic subjects and at risk-individuals. An interesting observation is that in diabetic individuals, these interferon sensors are predominantly detected in islets that still contain insulin, but their expression is associated with the downregulation of multiple genes in the insulin secretion pathway, indicating a potential functional defect of the remaining insulin-producing beta cells. The expression of these interferon sensors is also more abundant in islets with high immune infiltration, suggesting that they are contributing to the inflammatory environment of the islet and they might exacerbate the immune response.