Researchers investigating type 1 diabetes agree that the disease develops through the interaction of genes and one or more environment triggers. Although many theories have been proposed suggesting that exposure to dietary proteins may trigger the immune system attack leading to type 1 diabetes, studies attempting to establish such links until now have produced negative or contradictory results.
The research, funded partly by JDRF, sheds light on autoimmune
responses set into motion by certain dietary components. It also raises the
possibility that exposing children to Glb1 at a young age could teach the immune
system not to overreact when exposed to the protein at a later time.
The gastrointestinal tract is lined with large numbers of immune
cells that defend against potentially harmful microbes.In animal models of type
1 diabetes, researchers have found inflammation in this tissue that resembles
inflammation found in the pancreas of animals (and people) developing type 1
diabetes. In addition, patients with type 1 diabetes are at
Celiac disease occurs when immune cells in the gut react to a
certain protein, called gluten, proteins found in wheat, rye, and barley. Once
aroused, the immune cells attack and damage the lining of the intestine making
it difficult to absorb nutrients from foods. Although rare in the general
population, celiac disease occurs more frequently in people with type 1 diabetes
(with estimates ranging from 2 – 16 percent). The fact that people with type 1
diabetes have celiac disease at a much higher rate than the general population
suggests that some people that share common risk genes may be particularly
sensitive to wheat and could develop a misguided immune response to certain
Scott began testing various diets in diabetes-prone rodents. His goal was to
identify specific food proteins that promoted development of diabetes and to
understand the mechanisms by which this occurs.
Scott and his colleagues scanned through one million candidate proteins from
wheat, eventually narrowing the field to three that cause reaction in the
immune system, and then finally to Glb1, which is associated with damage in the
pancreatic islets. The researchers took blood from people with type 1 diabetes
and a rat model for the disease and exposed it to Glb1. Antibodies in the blood
reacted strongly to Glb1, suggesting it plays some role in triggering the
autoimmune attack that causes diabetes. The results from the study were selected
for the January 3 issue of the
Journal of Biological Chemistry.
The researchers have also shown that
exposing diabetes-prone animals to wheat proteins in infancy can delay and
protect some diabetes-prone animals from the disease possibly by teaching the
developing immune system not to overreact if it encounters these proteins later
in life. This work was published in the January 2002 issue of
is not clear yet whether such an approach would be beneficial in people at high
risk for type 1 diabetes.
Source: Diabetes In Control Dot Com.
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