Exploring the role of genes in the development of type 1 diabetes
January 25, 2020
For years, researchers have been trying to find the potential causes for type 1 diabetes (T1D), the autoimmune disease in which the body destroys insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, resulting in insufficient insulin secretion and high blood glucose levels. The origins of the disease are still unknown, although research indicates that both genetics and the environment play a role.
Dr. Suheda Erener, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia, is currently investigating whether micro-RNAs – a family of single-stranded molecules which are key regulators of gene expression and beta cell function – can predict the development of T1D.
She and her colleagues are profiling the micro-RNAs of children with recent onset diabetes. According to their research, some micro-RNAs play critical roles in T1D and may help establish which individuals are at risk of the disease.
Micro-RNAs have emerged as important regulators of gene expression in the last two decades and changes in micro-RNA expression within tissues have been detected in many disorders including cancer, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Identifying which genes and signaling pathways these micro-RNAs modulate may not only increase scientists’ understanding of the underlying causes of T1D, but also open up novel therapies to stop beta cell destruction and/or enhance their survival and function. As well, the accurate prediction of T1D using micro-RNAs as biomarkers in individuals with no symptoms may allow for the preservation of beta cell function early during the course of the disease, delaying its onset or curing it altogether.
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