Gene variant may be tied to type 2 diabetes

March 12, 2004|By NEWSDAY

BETHESDA, Md. - Two research teams have found variants in a gene that may predispose people to the most common form of diabetes, work that could lead to better understanding of the disease.

Variations were found in a gene on chromosome 20 that helps control function of liver and pancreas cells, according to Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute and senior author of one study.

Having the variation doesn't mean a person will get diabetes, Collins said at a briefing yesterday.

"It's a predisposition," he said. "It's a risk factor."

Those with the variation appear to have about a 30 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, Collins said.

"This gene acts as a master regulator of other genes," Collins said. It regulates 12 percent of liver genes, he said, and 11 percent of genes associated with pancreatic cell clusters called islets. "It directly regulates insulin," he said.

Formerly called adult-onset diabetes, type 2 affects about 17 million people in the United States and accounts for up to 95 percent of diabetes cases nationally.

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