Alterations to a key gene may predispose some people to develop autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, according to a paper published online by Nature this week.
John A. Todd and Linda S. Wicker of the University of Cambridge, Wellcome Trust/MRC Building, Cambridge, UK, and colleagues have identified a variety of changes to the CTLA4 gene. The altered versions of the gene are found in patients with Graves' disease, autoimmune hypothyroidism and type 1 diabetes, as well as in the mouse model of type 1 diabetes. Under normal circumstances the gene codes for a vital molecule that regulates the immune system.
Autoimmune disorders affect 5% of the population, yet the genes and mechanisms involved remain obscure. The research suggests that a subtle inherited variation in the genetic code may place certain individuals at increased risk of developing the conditions.
John A. Todd
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