How do people get sick?

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A group of international scientists, led by researchers at the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG), have  been able to figure out what exactly goes wrong in the body for a hundred diseases, even before people get sick. For example, research has shown that insulin-dependent diabetes (type 1 diabetes) is caused by a subtle disruption of the immune system.Among others, the scientists studied diabetes, rheumatism, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and gluten allergy.

Lead researcher Lude Franke of the UMCG hopes that the findings contribute to the development of new drugs, such as in the case of diabetes to correct the imbalance in the immune system.

DNA_Double_Helix_by_NHGRI
National Human Genome Research Institute
Wikimedia commons

The scientists studied the results of DNA-changes in 8,000 test subjects. They discovered that for many illnesses the changes all affected one particular biological process. This was unknown until now, said Franke.

The researchers collected large amounts of genetic data for the study. Analyzing these 'big data' was a big challenge, but they succeeded.

With this discovery researchers enter a new phase in genetic research. Scientists tend to formulate one specific question, collect data and then draw a conclusion. But with the rise of 'big data', better supercomputers and new mathematical techniques it is now possible conduct colossal studies that produce answers to many questions.

The lecturer hopes that in the future even more research can take place, to shed light on the onset of more diseases.

Patients should not immediately expect new drugs after the present study, however. These findings will not lead to new medication within the next ten years. This research was preliminary.

The results of the study are published in the scientific journal 'Nature Genetics'.

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