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3 avril 2011 7 03 /04 /avril /2011 09:25

As standards of living improve, so does attention to hygiene. However, it seems there may be a danger in being too diligent about it.

To test the hygiene hypothesis, researchers have found a unique 'living laboratory' at the border between Russian Karelia and Finland and nearby Estonia, which is quickly raising living standards. The three populations present a unique opportunity to test gene-environmental interactions in the development of immune-mediated diseases. At the onset of the study, the incidence of type 1 diabetes (T1D) was noted as being six times lower in Russian Karelia than in Finland.

The 'Pathogenesis of Type 1 Diabetes - Testing the Hygiene Hypothesis' (Diabimmune) project aims to assess the role of hygiene in the development of immune-mediated diseases, T1D in particular. Also, it is working to determine how the presence of infectious agents can actually offer a protective effect.

The project's aims from the start were to compare the frequencies of autoimmunity, signs of allergy and various infections, germs in the intestines and the dietary intake of young children in all three populations. This cohort has gathered 1 668 young children aged between 3 and 5, while the birth cohort totals some 8 409 infants from birth to 3 years of age.

The birth cohort aims at detailing the development of the immune system from birth to adulthood with tools that describe gene functions and interactions (functional genomics). Also, in this cohort, researchers will compare the functional characteristics of regulatory T cells. These are white blood cells that work to stop the immune system from being wrongly activated.

The Diabimmune Core Laboratory in Helsinki, Finland has recently completed an analysis of 1 787 biological samples for diabetes-associated autoantibodies. The National Institute for Welfare and Health is examining cord and peripheral blood samples and a centre in Petrozavodsk, Russia is conducting flow cytometry studies.

At the University of Turku in Finland, project members are concentrating on isolation and quality control of ribonucleic acid.

Also in Finland, the University of Tampere, responsible for dietary studies, has succeeded in developing a test platform for screening germs from stool, serum and nasal swab samples.

It has already carried out analyses of the samples collected.

Academic Hospital Groningen in the Netherlands is studying colonies of intestinal germs in infants living across the spectrum of standards of hygiene.

Country: FINLAND

Information Source: Result from the EU funded FP7-HEALTH programme

Date: 2011-03-25

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