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This is an excellent question, Amy, and reflects a serious problem in autoimmune diabetes research.
We need good animal models for diabetes. A large animal such as a dog is best for metabolic studies. Pancreatectomy is excellent in making these animals diabetic. And their immune systems are complete (meaning they make good antibodies). In contrast, rodents cannot be made diabetic with pancreatectomy so we must rely on islet-toxic drugs. These drugs are often not very effective.
So, which animals develop autoimmune diabetes similar to human autoimmune diabetes? The answer is "none." Autoimmune attack on islets seems unique to human beings. The NOD (Non-Obese Diabetic) mouse is often described as type 1 diabetic. But in fact it's a poor model.
The sad reality is there is no good model for human autoimmune diabetes. All models are compromises. Each is useful for certain questions. Fortunately for Islet Sheet research, we need not worry about autoimmune response. The allograft or xenograft responses are much more vigorous. If we prevent those responses, we will certainly prevent the weaker autoimmune response.
Scientists working to suppress autoimmunity in diabetes are not so lucky. After demonstrating success in the NOD mouse they move next into humans.
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