A new study has discovered a connection between a network of immune system genes and diabetes that may help in the search for new treatments for the disease. It showed that a certain group of genes that react to viral infections were present in both rats and humans, genes that were also associated with type 1 diabetes .
Diabetes is thought to be an autoimmune disease, since those who develop the metabolic condition are believed to have a genetic susceptibility to the disease that is then triggered by something in the environment, possibly a virus.
The scientists examined a group of genes in rats, which were controlled by a gene called interferon regulatory factor 7 (IRF7). They found that when there were differences in IRF7, there were also differences in the way other genes expressed themselves, so they looked for a gene network in humans that might behave similarly, finding a part of chromosome 13q32 that is controlled by a gene that appeared to be the human equivalent of the IRF7 gene in rats. Within this, they then discovered another gene that has been found to be associated with the development of type 1 diabetes.
Stuart Cook, senior author of the study, which was published in Nature, said “Diseases arise as a result of many genetic and environmental factors through gene networks that cause tissue damage. 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.”

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