Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease characterized by impaired immune tolerance to β-cell antigens and progressive destruction of insulin-producing β-cells. Animal models have provided valuable insights for understanding the etiology and pathogenesis of this disease, but they fall short of reflecting the extensive heterogeneity of the disease in humans, which is contributed by various combinations of risk gene alleles and unique environmental factors. Collectively, these factors have been used to define subgroups of patients, termed endotypes, with distinct predominating disease characteristics.
Scope of review
Here, we review the gaps filled by these models in understanding the intricate involvement and regulation of the immune system in human T1D pathogenesis. We describe the various models developed so far and the scientific questions that have been addressed using them. Finally, we discuss the limitations of these models, primarily ascribed to hosting a human immune system (HIS) in a xenogeneic recipient, and what remains to be done to improve their physiological relevance.
To understand the role of genetic and environmental factors or evaluate immune-modifying therapies in humans, it is critical to develop and apply models in which human cells can be manipulated and their functions studied under conditions that recapitulate as closely as possible the physiological conditions of the human body. While microphysiological systems and living tissue slices provide some of these conditions, HIS mice enable more extensive analyses using in vivo systems.