Scientists in the UK have identified a link between coeliac disease, a food intolerance disorder, and type 1 diabetes.
The study, partly funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), showed that both conditions shared a common genetic origin, which suggested that they may also be brought on by similar environmental factors. This lead the researchers to claim that the protein gluten, which is known to cause coeliac disease, could also be a trigger for type 1 diabetes.
The research, carried out by the University of Cambridge, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry and which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that both conditions are due to a malfunctioning immune system. It examined data from almost 20,000 tissue samples in order to monitor genetic similarities between the two conditions, and found seven chromosome regions that are shared.
These regions may help regulate the immune system in attacking the beta cells in both the pancreas and the small intestine, although further research is needed to identify how genetic and environmental factors combine to trigger the conditions.
One of the researchers, David van Heel, commented “These findings suggest common mechanisms causing both coeliac and type 1 diabetes – we did not expect to see this very high degree of shared genetic risk factors.”

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