Type 1 Diabetes Causes
What leads to the development of type 1 diabetes?
Written by Daphne E. Smith-Marsh PharmD, CDE | Reviewed by W. Patrick Zeller MD
It isn’t entirely clear what triggers the development of type 1 diabetes. Researchers do know that genes play a role; there is an inherited susceptibility. However, something must set off the immune system, causing it to turn against itself and leading to the development of type 1 diabetes.
Genes Play a Role in Type 1 Diabetes
Some people cannot develop type 1 diabetes; that’s because they don’t have the genetic coding that researchers have linked to type 1 diabetes. Scientists have figured out that type 1 diabetes can develop in people who have a particular HLA complex. HLA stands for human leukocyte antigen, and antigens function is to trigger an immune response in the body.
There are several HLA complexes that are associated with type 1 diabetes, and all of them are on chromosome 6.
Different HLA complexes can lead to the development of other autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Like those conditions, type 1 diabetes has to be triggered by something—usually a viral infection.
What Can Trigger Type 1 Diabetes
Here’s the whole process of what happens with a viral infection: When a virus invades the body, the immune system starts to produce antibodies that fight the infection. T cells are in charge of making the antibodies, and then they also help in fighting the virus.
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