T Cell Vaccines as an Immunotherapy for Type 1 Diabetes

Center for Advanced Technical Studies
Irmo, South Carolina
Open Access
DOI: 10.18258/4443
Raised of $1,404 Goal
Funded on 2/19/15
Successfully Funded
  • $1,495
  • 106%
  • Funded
    on 2/19/15

About This Project

Type 1 Diabetes develops when CD4+ T cells aren't taught to differentiate between self-antigens and foreign antigens during their maturation in the thymus. As a result, they mediate the destruction of the body's own insulin-producing beta cells. T Cell Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase (TCPTP) is an enzyme that has been shown to deplete T cell proliferation and antigen expression in vitro. If a vaccine can be created using CD4+ T cells attenuated with TCPTP, then, upon inoculation, the body will recognize these weakened T cells and initiate apoptosis of circulating autoreactive CD4+ T cells.

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What is the context of this research?

CD4+ T cells have been shown to mediate the autoimmune process in Type 1 Diabetes. If the immune system of a T1D patient could learn to differentiate between normal T cells and autoimmune T cells, theoretically, it should induce apoptosis of all autoimmune T cells in the body and stop the self-destruction of beta cells. In previous T cell vaccine research, patients with Multiple Sclerosis (an autoimmune disease similar to T1D in terms of pathogenesis) were inoculated with 3 rounds of a T cell vaccine. All patients experienced a reduction in circulating autoreactive T cells, and only one patient experienced a single relapse.

What is the significance of this project?

Pancreatic islet transplantation is an experimental procedure in which donor beta cell-containing islets of Langerhans are transfused into the portal vein of the recipient's liver via a catheter inserted through a small incision in the abdomen. As a result, the patients are able to produce their own insulin. However, these effects usually only last 1-2 years at most, as the autoreactive T cells that caused the disease in the first place come back and destroy the new beta cells. If a vaccine to rid the body of these autoreactive T cells could be administered in conjunction with this procedure, theoretically, it would result in a complete cure for Type 1 Diabetes.

What are the goals of the project?

My immediate goal is to receive donations to fund my project. Once I am able to purchase the materials, I intend to create a T cell vaccine for Type 1 Diabetes by isolating CD4+ T cells from diabetic peripheral mononuclear blood cells. Next, I intend to expand my sample size (to reduce error) by growing them on a T cell media. These T cells will then be treated with TCPTP to attenuate their autoreactivity and ability to proliferate in vivo. The next step would be to begin Phase I clinical trials, however, as a high school student, I lack the medical credentials required to legally do this. Nevertheless, I intend to continue my research in college and medical school.


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I am a senior in high school conducting research to create a T cell vaccine against Type 1 Diabetes. Because I am only a student, it's unlikely that I'll receive grants from organizations such as the National Institute of Health to fund my project. Therefore, I need funding from websites like this in order to purchase the materials I need to conduct my research.

Meet the Team

Emily Morton
Emily Morton

Team Bio

I am a senior at Irmo High School and the Center for Advanced Technical Studies, attempting to create a T cell vaccine against Type 1 Diabetes. I chose to do this project because I am fascinated with how the immune system works, especially in the case of autoimmune diseases like Type 1 Diabetes, and I hope to someday help cure this and other diseases. My interest in the medical field began when I took my first year of Biomedical Science classes (I'm currently taking the last of the four classes). The courses are identical to those taught in colleges, so the workload is extremely large, but I always enjoy doing it—even the 20+ page research papers. This fall, I will be attending Clemson University to major in Microbiology with a concentration in Biomedicine. Afterwards, I plan to study either Pathology or Immunology in medical school. Outside of studying medicine, my interests include dancing with Carolina Ballet, playing the cello, and painting.

Lab Notes

Nothing posted yet.

Additional Information

Attached is a link to my most recent research paper, for those who wish to learn more about my project.


Project Backers

  • 16Backers
  • 106%Funded
  • $1,495Total Donations
  • $93.44Average Donation
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