Discovery May Pave Way to Better Diabetes Care

FRIDAY Sept. 11, 2009 -- A newly discovered gene could give researchers new insight into type 2 diabetes, potentially leading to better treatment for the increasingly common disease.

The gene, which appears to be linked to diabetes, affects how the body reacts to insulin in the bloodstream, according to a report published Sept. 6 in Nature Genetics.

"Most of the genes that we've identified as diabetes risk genes to date reduce the function of the pancreas, specifically of beta cells in the pancreas that make insulin," study co-author Dr. Robert Sladek, of McGill University in Montreal, explained in a news release from the school.

This gene, instead, "has to do with the function of the other tissues in the body," he said. "Rather than reduce production of insulin, this gene reduces the effect of insulin in muscles, liver and fat, a process called insulin resistance."

Diabetes occurs when the body fails to produce or process insulin properly.

The gene "basically tells the rest of the cell, 'Hey, insulin is here, start taking in glucose from the blood!'" Sladek said. If that fails to happen, the body's processing of insulin is disrupted.

The research is based on analysis of genetic material from more than 6,000 people in France.

"It's possible that in diabetic patients, the signal to turn this gene on and off might be impaired," Sladek said. "But we might be able to use one of the other pathways to turn it on."

More information

The American Diabetes Association has more on type 2 diabetes.

Posted: September 2009


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