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Newly Identified Gene Variants Linked to Diabetes

Discovery could lead to new type 2 treatments, researchers say

MONDAY, Jan. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have identified 10 new gene variants associated with blood sugar or insulin levels, which they believe could lead to new treatments for type 2 diabetes.

"Only four gene variants had previously been associated with glucose metabolism, and just one of them was known to affect type 2 diabetes. With more genes identified, we can see patterns emerge," study co-lead author Dr. Jose Florez, of the Diabetes Unit and the Center for Human Genetic Research at Massachusetts General Hospital, said in a news release.

"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 for type 2 diabetes," Florez explained.

The study is published in the Jan. 17 online edition of the journal Nature Genetics.

The international team of researchers began their study by analyzing about 2.5 million gene variations (called SNPs) from 21 genome-wide searches for variants associated with glucose and insulin regulation in more than 46,000 people without diabetes. The 25 most promising SNPs were further investigated and narrowed down to 10 new SNPs associated with blood sugar and insulin levels, and increased diabetes risk.

"The fact that not all genes involved with raising glucose levels increase diabetes risk tells us that it's not the mere fact of raising glucose that's important but rather how glucose is raised. It's one thing to increase glucose slightly within the normal range and quite another to affect a pathway that eventually leads to progressive glucose elevation, beta-cell failure or insulin resistance -- in other words type 2 diabetes," Florez said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about diabetes.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Massachusetts General Hospital, news release, Jan. 17, 2010

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