About type 1 diabetes
In the healthy body, insulin is produced by the beta cells in the pancreas. Insulin is necessary in allowing the carbohydrates that we eat to get into all of the body’s cells, so that they can be used for energy. When the body does not produce enough insulin, carbohydrates cannot get into the body’s cells to be used for energy, and these carbs remain in the blood stream, making a person’s blood sugar high (diabetes).
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic autoimmune disease caused by destruction of the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. This happens when the body’s immune system (which usually attacks invaders such as viruses and bacteria) mistakes its own cells (such as the beta cells in the pancreas) for something to be destroyed. The immune system attacks these beta cells slowly over time. Eventually, so many of the beta cells are destroyed that the body cannot make enough insulin to maintain normal blood sugars. Blood sugars become high, and type 1 diabetes is diagnosed.
By the time a person has the physical signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes, this autoimmune attack has been going on for some time — some beta cells remain, but a significant percentage have been destroyed.
One of the most important questions in diabetes research is how to monitor the destructive process taking place within the pancreas. Being able to visualize (see) this process could lead to earlier detection and better determining if and how proposed treatments work.
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