Enteroviruses in the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes
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- Tauriainen, S., Oikarinen, S., Oikarinen, M. et al. Semin Immunopathol (2011) 33: 45. doi:10.1007/s00281-010-0207-y
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The question if enteroviruses could cause beta-cell damage and type 1 diabetes has become more and more relevant when recent studies have provided new evidence supporting this scenario. One important observation is the recent discovery of IFIH1 as a risk gene for type 1 diabetes. This gene is an innate immune system receptor for enteroviruses offering one possible mechanism for the diabetogenic effect of enteroviruses. This is further emphasized by the observations suggesting that the innate immune system is activated in the pancreatic islets of type 1 diabetic patients and that the innate immune system is important for the defense against the virus and for the regulation of adaptive immune system. Important progress has also been gained in studies analyzing pancreas tissue for possible presence of enteroviruses. Several studies have found enteroviruses in the pancreatic islets of type 1 diabetic patients using various methods. The virus seems to be located in the islets while exocrine pancreas is mostly uninfected. One recent study found the virus in the intestinal mucosa in the majority of diabetic patients. Enteroviruses can also infect cultured human pancreatic islets causing either rapid cell destruction or a persistent-like noncytolytic infection. Combined with all previous, epidemiological findings indicating the risk effect of enteroviruses in cross-sectional and prospective studies, these observations fit to a scenario where certain diabetogenic enterovirus variants establish persistent infection in gut mucosa and in the pancreatic islets. This in turn could lead to a local inflammation and the breakdown of tolerance in genetically susceptible individuals. This is also supported by mouse experiments showing that enteroviruses can establish prolonged infection in the pancreas and intestine, and some virus strains cause beta-cell damage and diabetes. In conclusion, recent studies have strengthened the hypothesis that enteroviruses play a role in the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes. These findings open also new opportunities to explore the underlying mechanism and get closer to causal relationship.