A previous study earlier this year by the same study team found that another type 2 diabetes gene, CDKAL1, affects fetal growth and increases the likelihood that a baby will be underweight at birth.
The current study found that the gene HHEX-IDE does not affect birth weight, but makes it more likely that a child will become obese during childhood. The gene does not appear to predispose to obesity in adults, although by contributing to childhood obesity, it may set the stage for type 2 diabetes in adulthood.
Grant cautioned that HHEX-IDE accounts for only a small proportion of the genetic contribution to the risk of type 2 diabetes, so many other gene variants remain to be discovered. However, he adds, HHEX-IDE may represent an important underpinning of the disease. "Previously we thought that this gene affects insulin production during adulthood, but we now see that it may play an early role in influencing insulin resistance through its impact on body size during childhood," said Grant. "One implication is that if we can develop medicines to target specific biological pathways in childhood, we may be able to prevent diabetes from developing later in life."
|Contact: John Ascenzi|
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia