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Diabetes may occur in womb

23rd January 2007

UK and US researchers have discovered that children with type 1 diabetes have unusually high levels of maternal DNA.

The findings point to an occurrence of cell transfer from the mother which would happen in the womb.  Scientists think a mother’s cells may try to repair tissue damage in her unborn child, resulting in type 1 diabetes.  Initial theories suggest that, in some cases, too many cells cross from mother to foetus during pregnancy.

The researchers from the University of Bristol and Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found around 20% of children with type 1 diabetes had unusually high levels of maternal DNA in their blood.  It has been known for some time that mothers and babies exchange stem cells during pregnancy.  The phenomenon is known as microchimerism and it is still unclear whether the presence of such cells can be harmful to the recipient.

Type 1 diabetes affects around 350,000 people in the UK and is the most harmful strain of the illness.  Scientists hope their findings will lead to the development of new treatments for the condition.

 

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