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New Genes Linked To Diabetes

January 18, 2010

Two studies report that scientists have uncovered new genes linked to type 2 diabetes.

A consortium of researchers first isolated 10 gene mutations that help determine the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, the key factors underlying type 2 diabetes.

In another study, the same group of researchers discovered that two of these newly-found variants directly influenced the risk of diabetes.

Both studies were published online in the journal Nature Genetics.

It also fingered an additional three genetic culprits that had already been linked to changes in glucose levels.

Jose Florez told AFP, “Only four gene variants had previously been associated with glucose metabolism, and just one of them was known to affect type 2 diabetes.”

Florez, who co-lead one of the studies, is a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“Finding these new pathways can help us better understand how glucose is regulated, distinguish between normal and pathological glucose variations, and develop potential new therapies,” Florez wrote in a statement.

One gene in particular, known as GIPR-A, was found to play a prominent role.

The mutated version, however, impairs this response, resulting in elevated glucose.

The investigators said that other factors related to diabetes has yet to be found.

“We’ve still only identified about 10 percent of the genetic contribution to glucose levels in nondiabetic individuals, so we need to investigate the impact of other possibly more complex or rare forms of gene variation, along with the role of gene-environment interaction, in causing type 2 diabetes,” said Florez.

Diabetes occurs when our bodies fail to produce sufficient insulin or when our cells fail to recognize and react to the insulin produced, resulting in abnormally high blood sugar levels. It is closely linked to lifestyle, especially the kinds and quantity of food we consume.

Over 220 million people have diabetes worldwide. The disease kills more than one million people every year.

As obesity rates increase, the number of deaths could double between 2005 and 2020, the WHO has said.

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