Type 1 Diabetes and MS – Unfortunate Cousins?

Type 1 Diabetes and MS – Unfortunate Cousins?

Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) are diseases that are not typically associated with each other. But according to a Danish study, there is a three times higher risk for occurrence of MS in T1D patients. 

T1D and MS are both considered T cell-mediated autoimmune diseases characterized by autoantigen-specific T1-helper cell responses, decreased T-cell suppressor activity and the presence of various autoantibodies. T1D and MS are both multifactorial diseases, which arise from a combination of multiple genetic and environmental factors. Many parallels have been identified as common to both disorders:

  • The incidence of both T1DM and MS increases with distance from the equator.
  • Variants of human leukocyte antigen haplotypes that suppress disease risk are highly present in individuals with T1DM and MS.
  • Several genes outside the human leukocyte antigen region act as susceptibility loci in both T1DM and MS but result in modest effects.
  • Environmental factors such as vitamin D deficiency may increase risk for the development of both conditions.

A study compared gene expression profiles of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and pancreatic-β cells in T1D, as well as PBMCs and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in MS. Results from PBMCs in both diseases show:

  • Inflammatory immune responses, apoptosis, proteasome, signaling transduction mechanism and protein synthesis were common biological processes and pathways. between the pancreatic-β cells and CSF networks of the two diseases.
  • Several common key genes (geldanamycin-HSP90AB1, azathioprine-RAC1 melatonin-ESR1 and resveratrol-ESR1) were identified as contributing to the pathogenesis of both T1D and MS.
  • Interleukin-23 (IL-23) was the most noticeable cytokine upregulated in both diseases and is a member of the IL-12 family of cytokines with pro-inflammatory properties. 

So Why is This Important?

While the prevalence of autoimmunity is on the rise, there has been no cure found for these diseases. The good news is that researchers have explored nanotechnology as a promising therapeutic tool to treat CNS-related disorders, and the revelation of common key genes and pathways could further facilitate drug discovery and treatment in patients with T1D and MS.


  • Chountoulesi, Maria, and Costas Demetzos. “Promising Nanotechnology Approaches in Treatment of Autoimmune Diseases of Central Nervous System.” MDPI, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 2 June 2020, www.mdpi.com/2076-3425/10/6/338.
  • Bayry, J-F. Gautier, et al. “Identification of Common Key Genes and Pathways between Type 1 Diabetes and Multiple Sclerosis Using Transcriptome and Interactome Analysis.” Endocrine, Springer US, 1 Jan. 1970, link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12020-019-02181-8.
  • Nete M. Nielsen, MSc. “Type 1 Diabetes and Multiple Sclerosis.” Archives of Neurology, American Medical Association, 1 July 2006, jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaneurology/fullarticle/791769.
  • SV;, Handel AE;Handunnetthi L;Ebers GC;Ramagopalan. “Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus and Multiple Sclerosis: Common Etiological Features.” Nature Reviews. Endocrinology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19884899/.