Newly Discovered Immune Cell Linked to Type 1 Diabetes—”Rogue Hybrid” of B-Cell & T-Cell Appears to Spur Potent Autoimmune Attack on Insulin-Producing Cells in Pancreas; Study Led by Hopkins and IBM Scientists Published in Cell

In a discovery that might be likened to finding medicine's version of the Loch Ness monster, a research team from Johns Hopkins Medicine, IBM Research, and four additional collaborating institutions is the first to document the existence of a long-doubted "X cell," a "rogue hybrid" immune system cell that may play a key role in the development of type 1 diabetes. The researchers report the unusual lymphocyte (a type of white blood cell) -- formally known as a dual expressor (DE) cell -- in a new paper published as a featured article in the May 30, 2019 issue of Cell ( The open-access article is titled “A Public BCR Present in a Unique Dual-Receptor-Expression Lymphocyte from Type 1 Diabetes Patients Encodes a Potent T Cell Autoantigen.” “The cell we have identified is a hybrid between the two primary workhorses of the adaptive immune system, B lymphocytes and T lymphocytes," says Abdel-Rahim A. Hamad, MVSc, PhD., Associate Professor of Pathology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and one of the authors of the paper. "Our findings not only show that the X cell exists, but that there is strong evidence for it being a major driver of the autoimmune response believed to cause type 1 diabetes." Type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition in which there is destruction of the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin (image), the hormone that regulates a person's blood sugar level. Diagnosed mostly in childhood, but presenting at all ages, the disease accounts for between 5% and 10 % of all diabetes cases in the United States or about 1.3 million people.
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