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Fetal Gene May Contribute to Diabetes Risk
Date:5/8/2008

ility of DNA to be transcribed, or send messages out to the rest of the body, she said.

Researchers were previously able to normalize the activity of the Pdx1 gene in both newborn and adult animals with diabetes, using the drug Byetta (Exendin-4). It's not clear yet if the drug can also reverse epigenetic changes. The drug comes from Gila monster saliva, Simmons said.

But investigators face a huge technical hurdle trying to confirm these findings in humans.

"We do know this process [gene silencing] occurs in humans, particularly in cancer with tumor suppressor genes," Simmons explained. "What we don't know is if this process is responsible, in humans, for changes that we see in growth-retarded babies growing up."

"We'd like to think this is the case [that the same process is at work in humans], but we have no way right now to determine that," Simmons continued.

If the same mechanism is at work in humans, the Pdx1 gene may present a good target for drug therapy to prevent the development of type 2 diabetes, she said.

More information

Visit the American Diabetes Association for more on type 2 diabetes.



SOURCES: Rebecca A. Simmons, M.D., associate professor, pediatrics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia; May 2008 Journal of Clinical Investigation


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