Researchers uncover genetic role in Type 1 diabetes

November 14th, 2007 - 10:16 am ICT by admin  
This form of diabetes is more severe than Type 2 diabetes. It occurs when the body’s infection-fighting white blood cells start destroying the beta-cells that produce insulin in the pancreas.

With an eye on putting light on how this conflict begins, the researchers focused on a single gene called 12/15-lipoxygenase (12/15-LO). They say that this gene leads to the production of the enzyme that appears to have an important role in the activation of white blood cells in the pancreas.

Upon turning off the gene in non-obese diabetic female mice, the researchers found that the rodents became 97 per cent less likely to develop diabetes than mice that had normal levels of it.

“This research is exciting because it advances our knowledge of a new gene that is involved in causing Type 1 diabetes and could pave the way for new treatments to prevent or reverse this increasingly prevalent disease,” said Dr. Jerry L. Nadler, who is chief of the UVa Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism.

The study, published online in the journal Diabetes, also showed that lacking the 12/15-LO gene improved glucose tolerance and beta cell mass in mice.

It also prevented the animals from severe insulitis, a change in the islet cells that includes a high-fluid volume and too many white blood cells.

While white blood cells normally help to fight off infections, they can cause damage over time when they infiltrate the islet cells of the pancreas, say the researchers.

“Our findings have two practical implications,” said co-author Marcia McDuffie, professor of Microbiology at UVa.

“First, they help us to understand the complicated process that produces self-destructive white blood cells. This knowledge may be useful in predicting which children may be at risk for developing Type 1 diabetes before significant damage has occurred in the islets. Second, we may be able to design drugs targeting this enzyme that may help to prevent Type 1 diabetes in people at risk for the disease and also to prevent recurrence of disease in transplanted islets,” the researcher added. (ANI)

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