Monday, March 9, 2009

Diabetes Is Caused By a Virus

Diabetes is caused by a virus.

This news, reported Thursday by BBC News, is sure to turn the scientific understanding of the most vexing metabolic disease on its head. But it was not discovered at one of the great research institutions, or at a research pharmaceutical company, but largely through the work of one Scottish doctor driven by scientific curiosity.

The virus in question is an enterovirus that infects a specific kind of cell in the pancreas. Scientists hope to find out which enterovirus is to blame so that they can find a way to treat or prevent the disease. The study specifically looked at type 1 diabetes, but scientists are speculating that type 2 diabetes could result from a similar mechanism involving a similar virus.

Diabetes is a particularly costly and disruptive disease, so this discovery adds extra weight to the need to understand viruses and their effects on cells.