Peripheral T-lymphocytes subsets have been investigated in 36 patients with type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes of varying duration, 18 patients with type II (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes, and in 23 healthy subjects, using six different monoclonal antibodies. At the time of diagnosis of type I diabetes, there was evidence of an increase in cytotoxic T-lymphocytes, a decrease in suppressor T-lymphocytes, but a normal proportion of helper/inducer T-lymphocytes. In six of seven newly diagnosed cases studied, there was evidence of an increased number of activated T cells. An increase in activated T-cells was also found in 5 of 10 genetically susceptible islet cell antibody positive unaffected siblings in type I diabetic probands. In type I diabetes of long standing, the total T-cell population was decreased, largely due to a marked decrease in helper/inducer T-lymphocytes. Type II diabetic patients showed no abnormalities in T-lymphocyte subsets, making it unlikely that hyperglycemia was responsible for the changes observed. These results suggest that an imbalance of T-lymphocyte regulation is an important feature of type I diabetes and lend support for an immunologic role in its early pathogenesis.

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