Researchers have located and narrowed down the number of genes that increase the risk of Type 1 diabetes, a study claims.
The findings can help other researchers to better predict who might develop Type 1 diabetes and how to prevent it.
"It is a game-changer for Type 1 diabetes," said Patrick Concannon, director, Genetics Institute, University of Florida.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system kills off insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Experts don’t know what exactly causes the disease but suspect that genetics and environmental factors may play a role.
For the study, researchers gathered information about the genetic makeup of 27,000 people, including those who had Type 1 diabetes and others who did not.
They then began looking for individual differences in DNA that raise the risk of Type 1 diabetes.
Starting with 200,000 possible locations in the genome, researchers used a technique known as fine mapping to pinpoint DNA sequence variations that can lead to diabetes.
In some genomic regions, they narrowed the number of disease-causing DNA variations — known as single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs — from the thousands down to five or less.
"That will make diabetes researchers’ work more effective and efficient by giving them the most detailed directions yet about where to look for the genetic variations that cause Type 1 diabetes and perhaps other autoimmune diseases such as arthritis," Concannon said.
The study appeared in the journal Nature Genetics.