Specific Immune Cells Play a Role in Inflammation and Autoimmunity

Inflammation is a biological process driven by the immune system to help the body react to infection, irritation or other injury -- and help the body to repair itself. Researchers in the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center have learned that the mast cell, a cell of the immune system, plays an important role in inflammation.

Unfortunately, as these mast cells accumulate, they may fuel blood vessel formation (angiogenesis) and not cell repair -- often leading to cancerous tumor growth. In the lab of Gerard Evan, PhD, it was found that by blocking the function of these cells in mice, pancreatic islet tumor growth was halted.  By continuing to study the process of inflammation, we will better understand how this process plays a role in the autoimmune attack of the beta cells in type 1 diabetes. Additionally, inflammation has been known to disrupt the body’s ability to process insulin, contributing to the onset of type 2 diabetes.