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New Genetic Link to Type 1 Diabetes Found

Mutation of immune system gene contributes disease, study finds

THURSDAY, July 15, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A mutation of a gene that helps regulate the immune system is a major contributor to type 1 diabetes, researchers at the Medical College of Georgia have found.

The newly discovered gene, SUMO-4, controls the activity of proteins that regulate the intensity and duration of immune responses, the researchers report in the August issue of Nature Genetics.

The scientists found that a certain mutation of that gene increases the risk of type 1 diabetes. They discovered this by examining the transmission of genes from parents to children in nearly 1,000 diabetic families from across the world.

"This helps us understand how type 1 diabetes works, and we can use this improved understanding to better predict who will get the disease and design new intervention strategies for those who do," Dr. Jin-Xiong She, director of the college's Center for Biotechnology and Genomic Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

When the mutation encounters an environmental trigger, such as an infection, it throws off the immune system and initiates an autoimmune response that eventually attacks the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about diabetes.

SOURCES: Medical College of Georgia, news release, July 11, 2004
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