The importance of gut microbiome for Type 1 diabetes risk

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A new study has highlighted that children with a high risk of type 1 diabetes have a different gut microbiome to children at low risk.

Findings from the study, from Linköping University in Sweden and the University of Florida in the US and published in Nature Communications, suggest that an individual’s response to environmental factors in the development of autoimmune diseases, as well as the makeup of their gut microbiome, can shape their genetic risk of Type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes requires intensive treatment with insulin for the rest of the affected individual’s life and both hereditary and environmental factors can play a role in Type 1 diabetes development, which is classed as a serious autoimmune condition. Now it has come to light that an individuals gut microbiome can also play a role.

Gut microbiome associated with risk

Gut flora is a factor that plays a large role in the risk associated with developing Type 1 diabetes. It has an impact on the development of various diseases, particularly autoimmune diseases, where microbiomes play an important role in the maturation of the immune system.

Johnny Ludvigsson, senior consultant at HRH Crown Princess Victoria Children’s Hospital, Linköping University Hospital, said: “Certain bacterial species were not found at all in children with high genetic risk, but were found in those with low or no risk. This is very interesting, as this could mean that certain species have protective effects and may be useful in future treatment to prevent autoimmune diseases. It may be that certain species cannot survive in individuals with high genetic risk”.

Unique study

This study is unique as it is the first in which a relationship has been studied in a general population that includes children with low, neutral, and high genetic risk. However, the researcher suggest that more research is needed to understand how the combined effect of genetics and gut microbiome influence the development of type 1 diabetes. The results may also be important for the development of other autoimmune diseases where genetics is important, such as celiac disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

ABIS study

This research is part of the All Babies in Southeast Sweden study (ABIS) being conducted at Linköping University. The aim of the study is to determine why children develop immune-mediated diseases, particularly type 1 diabetes.

The study consists of questionnaires and biological samples being taken from a totally of 17,000 children in the area that were born between the years 1997 and 1999. The samples are taken from birth up to the age of 8 years old and beyond.

Ludvigsson said: “The ABIS cohort is uniquely valuable as it allows certain types of study on the importance of environmental factors for the development of Type 1 diabetes. ABIS is the only big prospective cohort in the world where a general population has been followed from birth, which allows this type of studies on how genetic and environmental factors work together”.

The study has been funded by Barndiabetesfonden (the Swedish Child Diabetes Foundation), the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (FAS), the Medical Research Council of Southeast Sweden (FORSS), Östgöta Brandstodsbolag, Region Östergötland and Linköping University. This study was done in collaboration with a research group at the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, USA led by Professor Eric Triplett.

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