There’s some exciting news about MRI detection of pancreas inflammation out of the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston:
In this study, the Joslin and MGH researchers used a new imaging technique to reveal the otherwise undetectable inflammation of pancreatic islets in recently diagnosed diabetic mice. As T lymphocytes invade the pancreas, blood vessels swell, become more permeable, and leak fluid – as well as small molecules carried in the fluid – into surrounding tissues. In previous experiments, the researchers demonstrated that this leakage can be detected with the help of magnetic nanoparticles (MNP) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). After being injected intravenously, these MNPs, which are minute particles of iron oxide, travel through the blood vessels of the body including the pancreas. If pancreatic vessels have become leaky from inflammation, the magnetic particles spill into nearby tissues, where they are “eaten” by scavenger cells called macrophages. Thus, the MNPs become concentrated at the inflamed site and can be spotted by high-resolution MRI.
In their recent study, the researchers applied the MRI-MNP technique to determine whether they could predict which mice would develop autoimmune diabetes and monitor the effectiveness of immune therapy aimed at reversing diabetes.
It’s tantalizing to think that the quiet autoimmune destruction of pancreatic insulin-producing cells can be caught, maybe reversed, before it’s too late. That may be no comfort to the legions of Type I diabetics out there now (although they have lots of promising therapies and products to look forward to). But this MRI detection process could save some kids a lot of misery, some day.
And this technology, once validated, could detect any number of subtle inflammatory processes. Since many tissues and organs in the body work well until they’re 75-90% destroyed, even a few days lead time could make a big difference.
More from the laboratory of Drs. Benoist and Mathis…