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Sasanka Ramanadham, Ph.D., and other authors recently published “A proteomic meta-analysis refinement of plasma extracellular vesicles” in the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Data.

Ramanadham is a professor in the UAB Department of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology and a senior scientist in the Comprehensive Diabetes Center.

One area of Type 1 diabetes (T1D) research that Ramanadham and others study is concerned with discovering and understanding the roles of cargo carried in extracellular vesicles (EVs) in T1D development and their potential as biomarkers of the disease.

The NIH defines extracellular vesicles as “cell-derived membrane-surrounded vesicles that carry bioactive molecules and deliver them to recipient cells.” In addition to being biomarkers, EV proteins play a role in cell-to-cell communication for functions, which can include apoptosis or cell death.

In T1D, the pancreas is not able to regulate blood sugar well because many pancreatic b-cells are not functioning properly, have been destroyed, or are being destroyed. Understanding how these cells receive an order to destroy themselves (apoptosis) or get destroyed by other cells, could be key in slowing or stopping the development of T1D.

Over the course of the study, the team of researchers ended up analyzing over 1,500 EV proteins in search of their role as biomarkers or players in T1D development.

The study had several important conclusions. First, researchers note the study provides diabetes researchers across the world a list of proteins that are highly likely to be EV proteins than can be used for prioritization for mechanistic and biomarker studies.

Second, the authors demonstrated how their list could be used by validating the Type 1 diabetes biomarker proplatelet basic protein (PPBP) in EVs. The researchers actually validated that PPBP regulates apoptosis of b-cells and macrophages.

The authors notes that their “approach provides a refinement of the EV composition analyses and a resource for the scientific community.” Ramanadham is delighted by the strides that the group of researchers made.

“Our collaborative study allowed us to sort 1,717 proteins into clusters. We learned more about their roles in cell-to-cell communication and signaling, and this will continue to support research across the world,” said Ramanadham. “I am most excited for the possibilities with learning more about these proteins and each of their roles in T1D development.”