Increased expression of IL-18 in the serum and islets of type 1 diabetics

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Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is a chronic disease characterized by autoimmune-mediated destruction of pancreatic insulin-producing beta cells. Interleukin (IL)-18 is a pro-inflammatory cytokine implicated in the pathogenesis of a number of inflammatory diseases. Here, we analyzed IL-18 levels in the plasma of juveniles with T1D. Compared to control subjects, IL-18 levels were significantly elevated in patients with T1D. On the other hand, levels of IL-18 binding protein (IL-18BP) and IL-37, two negative regulators of IL-18 function, remained unchanged when comparing T1D to control samples. Notably, however, although IL-18BP levels were not elevated, IL-18 and IL-18BP were found to be positively correlated in type 1 diabetics. Even so, free, unbound IL-18 remained significantly increased in diabetic patients. Additionally, correlation studies also revealed that IL-18 and IL-18BP are positively correlated with HbA1c levels in T1D patients, suggesting a potential link between IL-18 and metabolic control in these patients. Finally, we observed a significant increase in IL-18 protein expression within human pancreatic islet specimens collected from type 1 diabetics. These results further expand our knowledge of the role of IL-18 in T1D, may give insight into common pathogenic mechanisms associated with metabolic control in both T1D and T2D, and suggest that targeting this cytokine may improve therapeutic outcomes for T1D patients.

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