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Genetic susceptibility to autoimmunity

JDRF partners move research forward

Cancer drugs reverse diabetes in mice

Hydrangeas may help prevent diabetes

Vitamin C may help to stop type 1 diabetes damage

Glycemic control influenced by genes

Reducing the risk of diabetic heart attack


Genetic susceptibility to autoimmunity

A team of researchers from Australia and NZ have made an important breakthrough on the location of genes which may be linked to susceptibility of autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis. The newly discovered gene locations, on chromosomes 12 and 20, appear to be related to the role played by vitamin D availability and metabolism.

Researchers will now finely map these genetic regions and identify the different genetic changes that underpin autoimmunity with the aim of developing therapeutics that prevent or reverse the process.

Nature Genetics published online June 14

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JDRF partners move research forward

JDRF industry partner, Bayhill Therapeutics, has entered into a commercial agreement with Genentech Inc to commercialise a new therapeutic designed to reverse the autoimmune process that causes type 1 diabetes.

This is the fourth commercial agreement that has resulted from JDRF’s Industry Discovery and Development Partnership program, with other agreements being made with GlaxoSmithKline and Lilly.

JDRF developed the IDDP to help small companies develop innovative ideas and products. By supporting this early stage research, JDRF looks to encourage larger pharmaceutical companies to carry the products through expensive, late-stage trials and regulatory approvals. The ultimate aim of the program is to bring new diabetes therapies to market faster.

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Cancer drugs reverse diabetes in mice

JDRF-funded researchers in the US have shown that two common cancer drugs can block and reverse type 1 diabetes in mice.

The drugs – marketed as Gleevec and Sutent – prevented mice from developing type 1 diabetes and put 80% of the sample population into remission. Both drugs work by blocking an enzyme that triggers cellular growth and division and plays a key role in inflammation. The study was conducted as part of the Immune Tolerance Network.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105(48):18895-900

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Hydrangeas may help prevent diabetes

A drug derived from the hydrangea root, used in Chinese medicine for centuries, shows promise in treating autoimmune disorders. It works by inhibiting the development of bad immune cells known as Th17 – cells have been implicated in a variety of autoimmune disorders including type 1 diabetes.

The drug, called halofuginone, selectively prevents the development of Th17 cells but has no effect on other aspects of the immune system. In addition, it is relatively cheap to produce, simple to administer and is likely to have considerably less side-effects compared to traditional immune-suppression drugs. This study was partially funded by JDRF.

Science 324(5932):1334-8

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Vitamin C may help to stop type 1 diabetes damage

Researchers from the Harold Hamm Oklahoma Diabetes Center have used a combination of insulin with a high dosage of vitamin C to minimize the blood vessel damage caused by type 1 diabetes in patients with poor glycemic control. Researchers believe that the anti-oxidant properties of the vitamin C acts to reduce the cellular stress that can result from even a few episodes of high blood sugar, thus reducing the risk of diabetes complications.

While researchers do suggest people with diabetes should eat foods and take multivitamins rich in anti-oxidants, they warn that these results are preliminary and more research is needed to ensure the safety of high doses of vitamin C.

Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism published online June 2 2009

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Glycemic control influenced by genes

JDRF researchers have shown that HbA1c levels are not just dependant on an individual’s diabetes management behavior, but also their genetic make-up.

According to results presented at the recent American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions, there is one small genetic change in particular that can predict people who are at risk of poor glycemic control.

The identification of this genetic variant (known as a single genetic polymorphism or SNP) gives us an insight into the mechanisms behind glycemic control and why some people react differently to different diabetes management programs.

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Reducing the risk of diabetic heart attack

It is well documented that carefully controlled blood sugar reduces the risk of kidney failure and neuropathy but researchers in the UK have now conclusively proven it also decreases the risk of coronary heart disease and possibly stroke.

After analyzing five trials incorporating more than 33,000 individuals, researchers were able to identify 17% reduction in heart attack risk and 15% reduction in coronary heart disease in patients maintaining strict blood glucose control with an HbA1c of around 6.6%.

The Lancet published online May 23 2009

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