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Immunology Notes
Stephen Gislason

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Autoimmune Diseases: Diabetes

Because of evidence that cow's milk intake can trigger diabetes in rodents, a study of diabetic children demonstrated antibodies to bovine serum albumin and a 17-amino-acid bovine serum albumin peptide (ABBOS). These antibodies would bind to a pancreatic beta-cell surface antigen. This study showed that diabetic patients had high serum concentrations of anti-BSA antibodies (IgA and IgG).

The presence of antibody (which means presence of antigen-specific B-cells) may signal the concomitant presence of antigen-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocytes, although these have not yet be demonstrated. The researchers suggest that ... "relevant clones (of lymphocytes) are continuously transferred from immature IgM-expressing B-cell compartments to pools of IgG-secreting or IgA secreting cells.... a slow inefficient process, consistent with the fact that clinical disease develops in only about 5 to 6 % of hosts with the relevant genetic predisposition."

An Australian study of children who developed diabetes found that children given cow’s milk formula in the first three months were 52% more likely to develop diabetes than those not fed milk. Breast fed infants had a 34% lower incidence of diabetes than formula fed infants. An Italian study showed that exposure to beta casein produced proliferation of T- lymphocytes from the blood of 51% of 41 insulin dependent diabetics.

The diabetes model of food-antigen triggered disease is an important immunological model of many unsolved diseases that appear to be "autoimmune". Food is an abundant source of protein antigens. A long-term, inefficient pathogenesis can produce target-organ damage, especially if the antigen challenge continues over many years.

Alternative explanations suggest that beta cells are attacked by cytotoxic T-cells after a virus infects them or by T-cells originally targeted on other cells infected by virus whose cell-surface antigens happen to resemble beta cell antigens. Coxsackie B viruses, for example

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Immunology Notes is part of the Alpha Education series developed by Environmed Research. The books are copyright by Environmed Research and all rights to reproduction by any means are reserved. We encourage readers to quote and paraphrase topics from Immunology Notes published online and expect proper citations to accompany all derivative writings. The author is Stephen Gislason MD. The date of the most recent publication is 2015. The URL to the book description is

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