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Immune System Genes Show Links to Type 1 Diabetes
Date:9/8/2010

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 8 (HealthDay News) -- The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is still unknown, but international researchers have found a link between the blood sugar disorder and a network of immune system genes.

Using a genome-wide association study, the researchers found that a certain group of genes that react in response to viral infections were present in both rats and humans, and that those same genes were also associated with a susceptibility to type 1 diabetes.

"Diseases arise as a result of many genetic and environmental factors through gene networks that cause tissue damage," explained study senior author Dr. Stuart Cook, the group head of molecular and cellular cardiology at the Medical Research Council Clinical Sciences Centre, and a professor of clinical and molecular cardiology at Imperial College in London.

"We used an approach to identify the major control points' central command of an inflammatory gene network. This led us to uncover hundreds of new genes that might cause diabetes and one major control gene that controls the whole network," said Cook.

He added that one of the genes belongs to a class of genes that might make a good target for drug therapy in the future.

Results of the study are published in the Sept. 9 issue of Nature.

Each year, more than 30,000 people are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, according to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). People with type 1 diabetes no longer produce enough of the hormone insulin to effectively use the sugars found in carbohydrate-containing foods. To survive, people with type 1 diabetes must take insulin injections or use an insulin pump for the rest of their lives.

Experts believe the disease is an autoimmune disease, which means that the body's immune system mistakenly turns against healthy cells, such as the insulin-producin
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