by Gertrud U. Rey
Type 1 diabetes is an organ-specific autoimmune disease that is characterized by the loss of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. The loss of these cells leads to decreased insulin production (hypoinsulinemia) and increased levels of glucose in the blood (hyperglycemia). While it is still unclear what exactly causes the loss of beta cells, experts agree that it is likely a combination of genetic and environmental factors. An increasing body of evidence suggests that Coxsackievirus strain B4 is an environmental trigger, because it specifically targets beta cells, causing them to die.