Sunday, June 1, 2008

New European Union Autoimmunity Study

An article published on Medical News Today, described an exciting new study in cooperation with universities from Finland, Russia, Estonia, Netherlands, and Germany, and coordinated by University of Helsinki. 

The study will attempt to explain an apparent link between standards of living and increased autoimmune disease. 
"The project comprises 12 partners from five countries. The study will include 7 000 children from Finland, Estonia and Russian Karelia in northwestern Russia. In each country the study will follow more than 300 children from birth to their 3rd birthday. In addition, the research will focus on 2 000 children from their third to fifth birthdays."
An earlier study compared two groups of school aged children - one group in Finland, the other in Russian Karelia. While HLA gene variants, which predispose people to autoimmune disease, remained equal in both groups of children, type 1 diabetes was six times higher and celiac disease five times higher in the Finnish children, who experience a higher standard of living than the Karelian children. (Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease are both autoimmune diseases). The Karelian children were also exposed to many more infections: 
The studies have also revealed that Russian Karelian school children have helicobacter antibodies as signs of earlier infections 15 times more often, Toxoplasma antibodies five times more often, and hepatitis A antibodies 12 times more often than Finnish children. Karelian children also have considerably more often antibodies against the Coxsackie B4 virus, belonging to the enterovirus group, than Finnish children have. 
This earlier study concluded that a decrease in infection load contributes to increased autoimmune diseases.
"The differences in the frequency of autoimmune phenomena and allergic responses between Finland and Russian Karelia cannot be due to genetic causes. High living standards and the associated life style appear to promote the development of autoimmune diseases and allergic responses", Knip says
The new study will continue to examine the potential link between infectious disease and and the development of the immune system. Several unanswered questions remain in this link. What infectious agents can affect autoimmune disease development? Does the normal bacteria living in our intestines affect our immunity? Does nutrition in childhood impact normal maturation of the immune system? 

The research project, named DIABIMMUNE, will collect data from 2008-2013.

No comments: