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From Portugal:

Can you tell me how diabetes "transmits?" I know that is hereditary, but is it from mother to son or daughter, from grandmother to grandson and granddaughter?


Type 1 Diabetes is a disorder of the immune system in which certain white blood cells perceive the insulin producing cells in the pancreas as foreign or 'non-self' and, over a period of years, destroy them. There are two factors which contribute to the disorder: one is inherited and the other is environmental. This second factor is not well understood; it may be a virus or some component of the diet.

The inherited part consists of patterns of proteins which constitute part of the cell surface; these are called HLA antigens. There are a number of different patterns or haplotypes, and each confers a different degree of susceptibility to diabetes onto the individual carrier. This HLA pattern may be passed down through either the maternal or the paternal line; but whether someone actually gets diabetes depends on whether they inherit a particular pattern from their mother or their father or from both. It depends too on the degree of susceptibility that a particular pattern confers and of course on whether they are also exposed to the environmental factor.

There is a genetic component to Type 2 diabetes which is even less well understood.


Original posting 27 Nov 96


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