Whilst cystic fibrosis has long been known to lead to diabetes, the reasons why this is the case have not been so well understood.
However, researchers from Lund University and the Karolinska Institutet, in Swede, have discovered that the gene responsible for bringing on cystic fibrosis also has an effect on regulating insulin secretion.
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease which occurs in people with a mutation in the CFTR (cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator) gene. The condition affects how salt is transported in the body and this causes thick mucous to develop, causing problems such as difficulties in breathing and digesting food.
In addition, cystic fibrosis can bring on a form of diabetes known as CFRD (cystic fibrosis related diabetes). Around 25% of people with cystic fibrosis over the age of 30 will have this form of diabetes.
Keen to investigate why cystic fibrosis causes diabetes to occur, the Swedish researchers conducted a series of experiments on insulin producing beta cells from mice and human donors. The results demonstrated that mutation of the CFTR gene inhibits the secretion of insulin, providing a convincing reason for why cystic fibrosis may lead to diabetes.
The study opens a new direction for cystic fibrosis related diabetes research which could lead to the development of medications that could prevent or better treat this form of diabetes.

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