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Genetic Link Between Type 1 Diabetes, Celiac Disease Seen
Date:12/10/2008

If connection holds up, it might lead to cures, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have identified common genetic mutations between type 1 diabetes and celiac disease, suggesting that the two inflammatory disorders may stem from a shared underlying mechanism.

The finding also suggests that the two diseases may be triggered by similar environmental factors.

"Our results spotlight that much more research needs to go into investigating the environmental factors involved," said study senior author John Todd, of the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research at the University of Cambridge in the U.K. "Additionally, research investigating whether there are benefits for type 1 diabetics knowing they are positive for celiac is important. There needs to be clinical research to see if this information could help them."

Type 1 diabetes is a disease in which the body doesn't produce insulin, a hormone needed to convert blood sugar (glucose) into energy for cells.

Celiac disease is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. People with celiac disease can't tolerate gluten, a protein that's found in wheat, rye and barley, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Researchers had previously seen genetic links between type 1 diabetes and celiac disease, which, together, affect about 1 percent of the population, Todd said.

But the new research shows there is "considerable overlap, and much more than we anticipated" he said. "Almost every celiac disease susceptibility gene had an effect in type 1 diabetes."

These similarities "suggest there's an important crisscross in both these diseases," said Dr. Robert Goldstein, chief scientific officer of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). "What's missing is how do you relate that finding to biologic function or biologic dysfunc
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