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Turku-led study finds genetic link to Type 1 diabetes

According to the international study, a certain set of genes is activated in children who present with early diabetes.

Diabetestutkimusta laboratoriossa.
The study examined the causes behind the onset of adolescent diabetes. Image: Kimmo Gustafsson / Yle

According to a new study of children with Type 1 diabetes, certain genes are activated before the disease starts. The result was revealed by an international study conducted using genetic engineering techniques, and was led by a research team in Turku.

"Our findings provide a basis for identifying children at risk of developing Type 1 diabetes even before they become ill," explained Academy Professor Riitta Lahesmaa in a press release from the University of Turku.

Children in Finland have the highest risk of Type 1 diabetes in the world, but the reason for this is as yet unknown. However, it has been established that children face a the risk of developing diabetes if certain antibodies are found in their blood.

"The next step is to investigate these factors in a larger body of data and to understand their significance for the cause of the disease," the press release continued. "The aim is to develop means and tools to prevent the onset of the disease in these children."

The study required long-term, interdisciplinary international collaboration involving clinical patients, molecular medicine and immunology researchers, as well as computational science experts.

Lahesmaa's research group works at the Turku Life Sciences Centre, a joint venture between the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi. The research has been funded by the Academy of Finland, the US-based Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and the European Union.

The study was reported by Diabetes magazine as well as by Nature Reviews of Endocrinology.

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