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Ann Med. 1991 Oct;23(4):447-52.

Milk proteins in the etiology of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM).

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Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


The etiology of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) is multifactorial. The final cause of the disease, the specific destruction of the islet beta-cells, is the result of a cellular/humoral autoimmune process that operates in individuals with a particular genetic background in response to an external triggering factor(s). The most likely environmental triggers are virus infections and dietary factors. Among the latter group dietary proteins, mainly cow milk proteins, have been found to be important. Elimination of intact cow milk proteins from the diet significantly reduced the incidence of IDDM in the spontaneously diabetic BB rat, the elimination being most effective when it occurs during the pre-weaning period. Conversely, in newly discovered diabetics (both rats and children) increased levels of antibodies to cow milk proteins as compared with non-diabetic controls were found. These higher titres of antibodies were against beta-lactoglobulin and anti-bovine serum albumin. In further studies we found that antibodies to bovine serum albumin cross-react with a beta-cell membrane protein of Mr 69,000 and that this protein is likely induced by interferon. At the molecular level, a region of the bovine serum albumin has distinct homology to the beta-subunits of the MHC class II proteins Ia, DQ and DR, and antibodies raised against this bovine serum albumin region identified the same 69K beta cell membrane protein, in the same manner as antibodies to the third hypervariable region of DR-beta did. Our hypothesis is that bovine milk proteins (mainly bovine serum albumin) might be an important environmental factor providing specific peptides that share antigenic epitopes with host cell proteins.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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