Research to determine how genes contribute to Type 1 diabetes

Published on October 19, 2012 at 3:00 AM · No Comments

Diabetes is a chronic, debilitating disease which affects nearly 26 million Americans. As many as three million people have Type 1 diabetes or juvenile diabetes that usually occurs in children or young adults. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the cells that make insulin. People with this disease must take insulin in order to stay alive. They must also balance their food intake and exercise.

Scientists around the world have been working for decades to find better treatments, cures and even preventions for this disease. In a new $4.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, scientists from Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason, Seattle Children's Research Institute and University of Virginia are joining forces to combine their expertise in three different areas of research in order to determine how genes contribute to the development of T1D.

"This research is targeted at understanding the genetic causes of Type 1 diabetes," said Jane Buckner, MD, Principal Investigator of the study and Associate Director of Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI). "This is fundamental to being able to predict disease and develop interventions (therapies) that can treat, cure and we hope prevent Type 1 diabetes." Dr. Buckner's co-investigators on the grant are David Rawlings, MD, director of the Center for Immunity and Immunotherapies at Seattle Children's Research Institute and Patrick Concannon, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at University of Virginia (UVA).

"These studies will not only lead to understanding how an individual gene may lead to Type 1 diabetes, but it will also identify immunologic pathways that are involved in the disease," said Dr. Buckner. These pathways can then be targeted for diagnosis and therapy.

"The unique feature of this grant is the utilization of three district types of research -- genetics, disease models and human studies in an integrated fashion," said Dr. Buckner. "We three investigators, with our different forms of research expertise, will tackle the same questions using different tools. By using this method and sharing our results in real time, we will more quickly determine the key components that cause Type 1 diabetes and the best strategies for therapy."

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