Introducing my Master’s Thesis

As a master student biochemical engineering at Group T university in Leuven, I am writing my master’s thesis this year. My research involves the study of proteins that play a role in the immunologically mediated beta cell deficiency that Type 1 Diabetes can cause. I am doing my internship at the Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine in the laboratory of Endocrinology of the University Hospital Gasthuisberg in Leuven.

The goal of this research is to understand the role certain proteins play in the pathogenic mechanism of Type 1 Diabetes as to be able to prevent it or find suitable therapeutic solutions.

But what is Type 1 Diabetes exactly?

The beta cells in the pancreas produce the necessary insulin to store the ingested glucose (from food intake) as energy for later. The beta cells of patients with Type 1 Diabetes hardly produce any insulin or none at all. This is because their own immune system mistakingly perceives the beta cells as foreign cells and attack them. That is why it is called a autoimmune disease, ‘auto’ referring to your immune system attacking your own cells. It is a genetic disease and can be passed on through generations.

(© 2001 Terese Winslow, Lydia Kibiuk)

In the image above you can see a normal functioning Beta cell producing insulin for glucose storage.

In the laboratory of Clinical and Experimental Endocrinology I will be practicing several separation techniques to purify the proteins that cause this autoimmune effect and hopefully understand why this self-mutilation occurs.

Follow my blog to find out! Comments are welcome.

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2 responses to “Introducing my Master’s Thesis

  1. Hello Pieter-Jan, You are now looking at which role certain proteins play to be able to prevent Diabetes 1 or find suitable therapeutic solutions. Is a regular injection of insulin the only way to survive for persons with type 1 Diabetes or are there other methods?

  2. Periodical insulin injections are the most common treatment for patients with an insulin insufficiency. However, it is also possible nowadays to have a insulin pump which administers insulin automatically in periodic intervals. As this is in combination with a glucose monitor, the machine can be programmed to administer a precise amount of insulin when the glucose level in the blood stream drops under a certain amount. A more intrusive solutions is transplantation. The whole pancreas can be transplanted or only the Beta-cells from within the pancreas. These Beta-cells produce insulin.

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