Prevention of autoimmune diabetes in the BB rat by intrathymic islet transplantation at birth

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Science  29 May 1992:
Vol. 256, Issue 5061, pp. 1321-1324
DOI: 10.1126/science.1598576


Spontaneous diabetes in the BioBreeding (BB) rat, like human type I diabetes, results from the destruction of pancreatic islets by autoreactive T lymphocytes recognizing beta cell-specific antigens. T cell tolerance is in part mediated by interactions of maturing thymocytes with antigens expressed in the thymic microenvironment; islets were therefore implanted into the thymus of neonatal diabetes-prone BB rats to determine whether exposure of T cell precursors to beta cell antigens could influence the development of diabetes. This treatment completely prevented diabetes and insulitis in the native pancreas. The effect may be the result of specific modulation of diabetogenic T cells maturing in an islet-bearing thymus.