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New diabetes gene uncovered

16th July 2007

Health campaigners have welcomed the discovery of a new gene associated with type one diabetes, arguing that it could lead to “more targeted” treatments in the future.

Researchers from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and McGill University in Montreal report in the journal Nature that they have found a new gene variant that increases children’s risk of type one diabetes.

They studied the DNA of over 1,000 children from Philadelphia and four Canadian cities to identify the variant on the gene KIAA0350. This was then confirmed in another study of 1,333 children of European descent in Europe, North America and Australia.

Type one diabetes develops if the body is not able to produce enough insulin and usually occurs before the age of 40 ? leading it to previously be termed ‘juvenile diabetes’.

Patients who develop the condition are dependent on frequent insulin injections to keep the body’s blood sugar levels under control.

The latest finding adds one more gene to the four already associated with type one diabetes and the study’s researchers expect to find up to 20 more genes that interact with each other in the condition.

They argue that as the research progresses, new and improved therapies to target the type one diabetes could be developed.

“If we know the gene pathways that give rise to type one diabetes, we hope to intervene early in life with targeted drugs or cell therapies to prevent the disease from developing,” said researcher Dr Constantin Polychronakos of McGill University.

Welcoming the study, Diabetes UK research manager Dr Iain Frame described it as “interesting” and said it “helps us to understand more about the genetics of type one diabetes in children”.

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