This invention relates to methods of preventing or reducing the severity of diabetes. In one embodiment, the method involves administering to the individual a peptide having substantially the sequence of a on-conserved region sequence of a T cell receptor present on the surface of T cells mediating diabetes or a fragment thereof, wherein the peptide or fragment is capable of causing an effect on the immune system to regulate the T cells. In particular, the T cell receptor has the V.beta. regional V.beta.6 or V.beta.14. In another embodiment, the method involves gene therapy. The invention also relates to methods of diagnosing diabetes by determining the presence of diabetes predominant T cell receptors.
This invention was made with government support under ER 60502 awarded by the Department of Energy and CA 30688 awarded by the National Cancer Institute. The government has certain rights in the invention.