What Causes Diabetes (Type 1)
Type 1 Diabetes is one of the type of diabetes that doctors today have no way of treating. For many years, researchers have tried to find out the cause of type 1 diabetes and even the cure for it. To many the cause of type 1 diabetes is a deep mystery. So the question here is, what causes type 1 diabetes?
What is Type 1 Diabetes?
Type 1 Diabetes is a chronic condition of high blood sugar which is as a result of the immune system destroying the beta cells in the pancrease.
Let me explain it further in clearer terms, The pancrease contain beta cells(found in the islets of langerhans) and these cells are responsible for the production of insulin. Insulin is the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels.
In the case of type 1 diabetes, the immune system is triggered to destroy the beta cells in the pancrease. And when the beta cells are destroyed, they will be nothing left to produce insulin for the regulation of blood sugar. Since there is no insulin, blood sugar levels rises rapidly with nothing to regulate it. This is what leads to type 1 diabetes.
Now when we ask the question, what causes type 1 diabetes? We actually trying to find out what is responsible for triggering the immune system to destroy the beta cells.
What causes Diabetes (Type 1)?
Researchers have discovered that genes play a major role in the cause of type 1 diabetes. One of the risk factor of having this disease is having a family member who is a type 1 diabetic patient.
Now according to researchers, some people cannot develop type 1 diabetes because their genetic makeup is not linked to it. They are people who have their genetic coding linked to the disease naturally. It was later discovered that people with a particular HLA (Human Leucocyte Antigen) complex are likely to be linked to type 1 diabetes.
HLA is an antigen and antigens are responsible for triggering the immune response in the body. They are several HLA complex associated with type 1 diabetes and all of them are on chromosome 6. A Chromosome is a structure of nucleic acid and protein found in the nucleus of living cell and carry genetic information(gene). Their primary purpose is to carry your gene. Every human have 46 chromosomes in each cell which are divided into 23 pairs. Chromosome 6 is one of the 23 pairs of chromosomes in human cells.
People with such genetic coding as explained above are more likely to have type 1 diabetes.
Viral Infection and Environmental Factors
When virus invades the body, immune system produce antibodies to fight it off. T cells are the cells responsible for the production of antibodies in order to fight off viruses. If the virus has antigens similar to that in the beta cells, then the T cells can actually turn against the beta cells.
The T cells fight and destroy the beta cells gradually. This can take several years. So a viral infection of today can be the cause of type 1 diabetes 10 years from now.
By the time the T cells have destroyed majority of the beta cells, the pancrease begin to produce little insulin for blood sugar regulation. The insulin produced will no longer be enough to regulate blood sugar. In some cases the beta cells are destroyed completely that insulin is no longer produced.
Not all virus can trigger this auto-immune defect. For a virus to trigger this, its antigens must be very much similar to the antigens found in the beta cells. Example of such viral infection include, german measles, mumps, rotavirus, the coxsackie B virus and so on.
Cow Milk and Type 1 Diabetes
Not many researchers agree with the cow milk controversy. Some believe that drinking cow milk as an infant can contribute to type 1 diabetes. They believe that proteins found in cows is similar to the protein that controls the T cells production.
So when an infant drinks much cow milk, it leads to the over production of T cells. The theory here is, too much T cells in the body will lead to the destruction of beta cells.
Progress have been made to understand type 1 diabetes. Researchers do not seem to be slowing down in their research any time soon. There is still much work to be done. There is still the part of the treatment. For now, Type 1 Diabetes has no cure, but we are looking forward to a future where it can be treated.
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