New Study Finds Gene Clec16a Can Trigger Type 1 Diabetes

Researchers have investigated genes related to Type 1 diabetes and have determined that the gene Clec16a is responsible for controlling how immune system T cells are conditioned to attack targets. The study was lead by Stephan Kissler, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA. The findings of the study were reported to the journal Immunity.


Kissler and colleagues did the study by turning off the gene Clec16a in genetically engineered mice. When the gene was turned off the majority of the mice did not develop diabetes. The researchers therefore believe that Clec16a plays a role in autoimmune diseases because of the fact that it affects the immune system. Clec16a has also be defined as a trigger for multiple sclerosis.


The researchers also confirmed that Clec16a acts in the development of Type 1 diabetes via autophagy. Autophagy is a process that occurs when the cell digests its own waste proteins and then moves this recycled material to the surface of the cell. Autophagy may occur in cells for a variety of reasons including a shortage of nutrients or if the cell has become infected by a virus. However, in the case of epithelial cells that are located in the thymus, the autophagy process is designed to indicate to T cells as to which proteins should be eliminated from the body.

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