Researchers uncover gene's role in type 1 diabetes

Nov 07, 2007

Researchers at the University of Virginia Health System have identified an enzyme thought to be an important instigator of the inner-body conflict that causes Type 1 diabetes. A chronic condition that affects nearly three million American children and adults, Type 1 diabetes is more severe than Type 2. Type 1 diabetes, also called autoimmune diabetes, arises when the body’s infection-fighting white blood cells start destroying the beta-cells that produce insulin in the pancreas.

To shed light on how this conflict begins, UVa researchers focused on a single gene, 12/15-lipoxygenase (12/15-LO). This gene leads to the production of the enzyme, which appears to have an important role in the activation of white blood cells in the pancreas.

Researchers developed non-obese diabetic female mice to serve as a model of Type 1 diabetes. After turning off the 12/15-LO gene in study mice, they discovered that these mice without the enzyme were 97 percent less likely to develop diabetes than mice that had normal levels of it, according to the study, published online in the journal Diabetes (to be published in print in February 2008).

“This research is exciting because it advances our knowledge of a new gene that is involved in causing Type 1 diabetes and could pave the way for new treatments to prevent or reverse this increasingly prevalent disease,” said Dr. Jerry L. Nadler, who is chief of the UVa Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism.

UVa researchers also discovered that study mice that did not have the 12/15-LO gene and remained non-diabetic demonstrated better glucose tolerance than non-diabetic NOD mice that were matched for age. (Worse glucose tolerance is an indication of having a pre-diabetes condition). The same group of study mice also had improved beta cell mass and less severe insulitis than their non-diabetic NOD counterparts.

Insulitis is a change in the islet cells that includes a high-fluid volume and too many white blood cells. While white blood cells normally help to fight off infections, they can cause damage over time when they infiltrate the islet cells of the pancreas.

“Our findings have two practical implications,” said co-author Marcia McDuffie, professor of Microbiology at UVa. “First, they help us to understand the complicated process that produces self-destructive white blood cells. This knowledge may be useful in predicting which children may be at risk for developing Type 1 diabetes before significant damage has occurred in the islets. Second, we may be able to design drugs targeting this enzyme that may help to prevent Type 1 diabetes in people at risk for the disease and also to prevent recurrence of disease in transplanted islets.”

Type 1 diabetes requires insulin injections, because the body cannot produce insulin on its own.

Source: University of Virginia Health System

Explore further: Gene interacts with stress and leads to heart disease in some people

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Cells put off protein production during times of stress

Sep 11, 2014

Living cells are like miniature factories, responsible for the production of more than 25,000 different proteins with very specific 3-D shapes. And just as an overwhelmed assembly line can begin making mistakes, ...

Team makes scientific history with new cellular connection

Sep 11, 2014

Researchers led by Dr. Helen McNeill at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute have revealed an exciting and unusual biochemical connection. Their discovery has implications for diseases linked to mitochondria, ...

Tracing water channels in cell surface receptors

Sep 09, 2014

G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are the largest class of cell surface receptors in our cells, involved in signal transmission across the cell membrane. One of the biggest questions is how a signal recognized at the extracellular ...

Microalgae – the factories of the future

Sep 09, 2014

Biology professor Ralf Kaldenhoff is making microalgae fit for industry. The microorganisms could produce a variety of products from carbon dioxide and light.

Recommended for you

DNA signature found in ice storm babies

Sep 29, 2014

The number of days an expectant mother was deprived of electricity during Quebec's Ice Storm (1998) predicts the epigenetic profile of her child, a new study finds.

User comments : 0