Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease linked

Dec 10, 2008

Type 1 (juvenile) diabetes and celiac disease appear to share a common genetic origin, scientists at the University of Cambridge and Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, have confirmed.

Their findings, which are reported in this week's edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, identified seven chromosome regions which are shared between the two diseases. The research suggests that type 1 diabetes and celiac disease may be caused by common underlying mechanisms such as autoimmunity-related tissue damage and intolerance to dietary antigens (foreign substances which prompt an immune response).

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder which causes the body to attack the beta cells of the pancreas, limiting its ability to produce the insulin necessary to regulate blood sugar levels. Celiac disease, also an autoimmune disorder, attacks the small intestine and is triggered by the consumption of gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley and rye) and cereals. The development and anatomy of the small intestine and pancreas are closely related, and the gut immune system shares connections with pancreatic lymph nodes, which have been linked to an inflammation of the pancreas and the destruction of beta cells.

In order to assess the genetic similarities and differences between the two inflammatory disorders, the researchers obtained 9339 control samples, 8064 samples from people with type 1 diabetes and 2560 samples from individuals with celiac disease. They found a total of seven loci (regions of a chromosome) were shared between the two.

The researchers, who were funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Wellcome Trust and Coeliac UK, believe that these regions of the chromosomes regulate the mechanisms that cause the body's own immune system to attack both the beta cells in the pancreas and the small intestine. Their results suggest that type 1 diabetes and celiac disease not only share genetic causes but could have similar environmental triggers as well.

Professor John Todd, from the University of Cambridge, said: "The next step is to understand how these susceptibility genes affect the immune system, and to keep exploring environmental factors that might alter the risk of type 1 diabetes, which results from an incredibly complex interaction between nature and nurture."

Professor David van Heel, from Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry , said: "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."

Richard A. Insel, MD., Executive Vice President, Research, at JDRF, said: "These studies demonstrate that type 1 diabetes and celiac disease share far greater genetic overlap than had been appreciated, which helps explain the high prevalence of both diseases occurring simultaneously in an individual, and provide new avenues for understanding the cause and mechanisms of both diseases."

Sarah Sleet, Chief Executive of Coeliac UK said: "This is a real advancement in understanding the underlying mechanisms generating celiac disease, a much under diagnosed condition which affects 1 in 100 people in the UK today however, only 1 in 8 of those has currently been diagnosed. We hope that these findings will help in increased awareness and diagnostic understanding of both celiac disease and type 1 diabetes."

Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease together affect about 1% of the population.

Source: University of Cambridge

Explore further: Ebola reveals shortcomings of African solidarity

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Research shows great promise for millet grains

Apr 17, 2013

Climate change, water scarcity, increasing world population, and rising food prices are only some of the socioeconomic factors that threaten agriculture and food security worldwide, especially for disadvantaged populations ...

Professor discovers genetic basis for hair loss

Oct 15, 2010

"Physician, heal thyself." That oft-quoted proverb describes the ground-breaking effort by Columbia professor Angela Christiano to discover the cause of the second most common form of hair loss after male-pattern baldness.

Study finds rate of celiac disease is growing

Sep 27, 2010

Working to solve the puzzle of when people develop celiac disease has led researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine Center for Celiac Research to some surprising findings. They have found that the autoimmune ...

Recommended for you

Ebola reveals shortcomings of African solidarity

18 minutes ago

As Africa's leaders meet in Ethiopia to discuss the Ebola crisis, expectations of firm action will be tempered by criticism over the continent's poor record in the early stages of the epidemic.

Second bird flu case confirmed in Canada

16 hours ago

The husband of a Canadian who was diagnosed earlier this week with bird flu after returning from a trip to China has also tested positive for the virus, health officials said Friday.

What exactly is coronavirus?

23 hours ago

The conflicts in Syria and Iraq are straining public health systems and public health efforts meant to prevent and detect the spread of infectious diseases. This is generating a "perfect storm" of conditions for outbreaks. Among the infections raising concern is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, caused by a type of coronavirus, which emerged in 2012. ...

Scientists find Ebola virus is mutating

23 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—Researchers working at Institut Pasteur in France have found that the Ebola virus is mutating "a lot" causing concern in the African countries where the virus has killed over eight thous ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.