to analyze human variation in health and disease on an enormous scale. It shows the importance of studies such as the UK Biobank, which is seeking half a million volunteers aged between 40 and 69, with the aim of understanding the links between health, the environment and genetic variation. New preventive strategies and new treatments depend on a detailed understanding of the genetic, behavioral and environmental factors that conspire to cause disease," he added.
During the study, the researchers found four chromosome regions containing genes that can predispose to type 1 diabetes, and three new genes for Crohn's disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease. For the first time, a gene called PTPN2 has been found which links the two autoimmune diseases.
The study also confirmed the importance of a process known as autophagy or self eating in the development of Crohn's disease. Autophagy is responsible for clearing unwanted material, such as bacteria, from within cells.
"The link between type 1 diabetes and Crohn's disease is one of the most exciting findings to come out of the Consortium," says Professor John Todd from the University of Cambridge, who led the study into type 1 diabetes.
"It is a promising avenue for us to understand how the two diseases occur. The pathways that lead to Crohn's disease are increasingly well understood and we hope that progress in treating Crohn's disease may give us clues on how to treat type 1 diabetes in the future," he adds.
The researchers analysed DNA samples taken from 2,000 patients and 3,000 control subjects to identify common genetic variations for seven major diseasesbipolar disorder, Crohn's disease, coronary heart disease, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 and type 2 diabetes. They are planning to study larger population samples to confirm their results.
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