Research on rare genetic disorder could yield Type 1 diabetes treatments

University of Exeter scientists release results of pancreatic agenesis study

LONDON — New research on a rare genetic disorder in which the pancreas fails to grow could shed light on how the organ develops and lead to treatments for Type 1 diabetes.

In a study published in the journal Nature Genetics, an international team of researchers led by scientists at England's University of Exeter discovered a genetic mutation present in 15-in-27 people with a condition called pancreatic agenesis, finding a key role for the gene, GATA6, in the development of pacreatic cells.

"This rare genetic condition has provided us with a surprising insight into how the pancreas develops," Exeter medical professor Andrew Hattersley said. "What is it that programs cells to become pancreatic beta cells? Our study suggests that GATA6 plays a very important role in this process, and we hope this will help the crucial work to try and make beta cells for patients with Type 1 diabetes."

In patients with Type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks and destroys pancreatic beta cells, leaving the body unable to regulate blood glucose.

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