Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease requiring lifelong medical attention. With hundreds of millions suffering worldwide, and a rapidly rising incidence, diabetes mellitus poses a great burden on healthcare systems. Recent studies investigating the underlying mechanisms involved in disease development in diabetes point to the role of the dys-regulation of the intestinal barrier. Via alterations in the intestinal permeability, intestinal barrier function becomes compromised whereby access of infectious agents and dietary antigens to mucosal immune elements is facilitated, which may eventually lead to immune reactions with damage to pancreatic beta cells and can lead to increased cytokine production with consequent insulin resistance. Understanding the factors regulating the intestinal barrier function will provide important insight into the interactions between luminal antigens and immune response elements. This review analyses recent advances in the mechanistic understanding of the role of the intestinal epithelial barrier function in the development of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Given our current knowledge, we may assume that reinforcing the intestinal barrier can offer and open new therapeutic horizons in the treatment of type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
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