Genetic irregularity linked to Type-1 diabetes

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

gene-technology-7830SYDNEY - Scientists have discovered a tiny genetic irregularity that boosts the expression of a key gene which may lead to the development of Type-1 diabetes.

Type-1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, where the body attacks and destroys its own

insulin-producing cells. A serious illness, leading to many complications, it often starts in childhood or teenage years.

While there is no cure yet, prevention therapies are on the horizon, making the development of reliable screening tools critical. And that’s where the current finding has promise.

Doctoral student Helen McGuire and Cecile King from Garvan Institute of Medical Research (GIMR) isolated the irregular DNA from mice that spontaneously develop Type 1 diabetes.

They also demonstrated that it increases production of very high levels of the immune stimulating molecule interleukin 21 (IL-21), according to a GIMR release.

The genetic irregularity occurs in the ‘promoter region’ of the IL-21 gene. In the world of genetics, the promoter region operates like the fuse on a bomb. In the same way as you need to light the fuse to set off a bomb, you need to activate the promoter region to activate a gene.

“Our study demonstrates that a small defect in the IL-21 promoter region is associated with the development of Type 1 diabetes in this model,” said project leader King.

Their findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

will not be displayed