Scientists have identified seven genetic markers shared between Type 1 (juvenile) diabetes and celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance.
The research team from the University of Cambridge and Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry has identified seven chromosome regions, which are shared between the two diseases.
This suggests that type 1 diabetes and celiac disease may be caused by common underlying mechanisms such as autoimmunity-related tissue damage and intolerance to dietary antigens (foreign substances that prompt an immune response).
During the study, the researchers assessed 9339 control samples, 8064 samples from people with type 1 diabetes and 2560 samples from individuals with celiac disease.
They found a total of seven loci (regions of a chromosome) were shared between the two.
The scientist believe that these regions of the chromosomes regulate the mechanisms that cause the body's own immune system to attack both the beta cells in the pancreas and the small intestine.
"These findings suggest common mechanisms causing both coeliac and type 1 diabetes - we did not expect to see this very high degree of shared genetic risk factors," said Professor David van Heel, from Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry.
"These studies demonstrate that type 1 diabetes and celiac disease share far greater genetic overlap than had been appreciated, which helps explain the high prevalence of both diseases occurring simultaneously in an individual, and provide new avenues for understanding the cause and mechanisms of both diseases," said Richard A. Insel, MD., Executive Vice President, Research, at JDRF.
The study appears in the New England Journal of Medicine.