British researchers have discovered genetic links between type 1 diabetes and celiac disease (a digestive disorder characterized by an impaired reaction to gluten) that have them speculating that both diseases may stem from a common underlying cause.
Celiac disease is a digestive disorder that attacks the lower intestine and impairs its ability to absorb nutrients. Celiac patients can’t tolerate gluten, which is found in such common grains as wheat, rye, and barley.
Both type 1 diabetes and celiac are autoimmune diseases. It’s not uncommon for people who have one disease to also have the other.
Scientists have long noted a genetic link between type 1 and celiac disease. But recently, researchers at the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom found that people with the two diseases share seven genetic markers not found in people who have neither disease.
The overlap between the diseases means that research will now focus more closely on food. Because some scientists suspect diet as a prime factor in the onset of type 1, the genetic link to celiac could lead to food-based therapies designed to thwart its onset.