Type 1 diabetes has long been suspected of having a genetic aspect. Inheritance of the disease has always been a risk, but new research reveals that the odds are much greater than previously thought.
Researchers at the Barbara Davis Centre for Childhood Diabetes have made a crucial discovery. An additional gene, known as Gene X, has been discovered in the human leukocyte antigen region on chromosome 6. This apparently raises the risk of type 1 diabetes autoimmunity (the risk of development) by 80 per cent. The paper is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Past research in this field has identified significant genetic markers, yet the researchers aimed to find other genes that determined diabetes risk. Using the data from a study called the Diabetes Autoimmunity Study in the Young (DAISY.)
The executive director of the Barbara Davis Centre, George Eisenbarth, said: “By combining measurement of high risk HLA-DR and HLA-DQ genes with defined family analysis we found that type 1 diabetes is more a Mendelian genetic disease that follows the basic principles of heredity. We found an extreme risk – greater than 80 percent – determined at birth by combining HLA-DR and HLA-DQ genetic typing with inheritance of other genes in the HLA region of chromosome 6. This research indicates an unexpected genetic determination of type 1 diabetes with a major unknown genetic locus and suggests that future research should concentrate on defining the additional genes in the HLA region that cause diabetes.”

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