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Gene defect 'linked to diabetes'

health-and-fitness Updated: Oct 21, 2009 15:05 IST

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Scientists have discovered evidence that a genetic defect, which boosts the expression of a key gene, may be responsible for type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, where the body attacks and destroys its own insulin-producing cells. It often starts in childhood and can lead to many complications. There is no cure yet but prevention therapies are on horizon.

Now, an international team led by Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Australia has found in mice that a genetic irregularity may play a major role in the development of type 1 diabetes -- if it works the same way in humans.

In their research, the scientists isolated irregular DNA from mice that spontaneously develop Type 1 diabetes. They also demonstrated that it increases production of very high levels of the immune stimulating molecule interleukin 21, the 'Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences' reported. In fact, the genetic irregularity occurs in the "promoter region" of the IL-21 gene. In the world of genetics, the promoter region operates like the fuse on a bomb. In the same way as you need to light the fuse to set off a bomb, you need to activate the promoter region to transcribe a gene.