A Link Between Type 1 and Viruses?
The argument that there’s a connection between type 1 diabetes and viruses has gotten a little stronger. Researchers found four mutations in a human gene that seem to lower the risk for type 1 diabetes. This gene is known to help the body fight off a common type of virus known as an enterovirus. Diabetes researchers have found a surprising number of enterovirus infections in people right around the time of diagnosis with type 1 diabetes. Some believe that an enterovirus infection might trigger an immune response that goes wrong, resulting in the destruction of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. The newly discovered genetic mutations may lower the risk for type 1 diabetes by hindering this immune response. Most people don’t have these protective mutations; future experiments will look at whether blocking the normal gene might mimic the mutations’ benefits, disrupting the immune response to enterovirus and preventing type 1 diabetes.
Source: Science, March 5, 2009