People with certain genetic variants are more likely to be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes compared to those without a specific type of gene, latest research has shown.

The study has highlighted an association between type 1 diabetes and genetic factors that impact the structure of T-cells.

Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune reaction – when the body attacks itself by mistake. This reaction destroys cells in the pancreas that make insulin, called beta cells.

Prior research has already identified 60 genetic variations that are linked to type 1 diabetes, but scientists are still unclear on how it affects the condition.

Lead author Xiaojing Chu said: “To characterise the body’s immune response in type 1 diabetes, we need to look at both the proportion of immune cells and their production of proteins – cytokines – that stimulate the immune system.

“In our study, we explored how genetic factors affect immune cells and their cytokine production in people with type 1 diabetes, as well as the differences between the immune response in patients and a healthy response.”

During the study, academics from Radboud University Medical Center examined the blood samples of more than 240 people aged between 20 and 84 years old, all of whom have type 1 diabetes.

While assessing the samples, the scientists were genetically analysing each participant’s immune cell traits and cytokine production profiles to detect genetic elements of immune functionality.

They then compared their results to other findings which were based on the blood samples of 500 healthy adults.

According to the research, the genetic factors of people with type 1 diabetes influenced the composition of CCR5+ regulatory T-cells much more than those without the condition.

Fellow academic Professor Yang Li said: “Our findings provide a deeper understanding of the immune mechanisms involved in the development of type 1 diabetes and that affect the general inflammatory response in people.

“We hope this work will open up new avenues for the development of much-needed treatments.”

These findings have been published in the journal eLife.

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