Gene risk for diabetes found

08 January 2014
Posted by Kat Arney.

Writing in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers in Mexico and the United States has uncovered a new gene variation implicated in a raised risk of type 2 diabetes, particularly among Mexican and other Latin American people.  Carrying a single high-risk version of the gene, called SLC16A11, increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes by around 25%, while inheriting two copies of the risky version - one from each parent - gives a 50% increase in risk. 

The higher risk version of the gene has been found in up to half of people with Native American ancestry, including Latin Americans, potentially accounting for a significant proportion of the known increased risk of diabetes in these people. It's in about a fifth of east Asians, and is relatively rare in people from Europe and Africa. the gene was previously missed in other genetic studies of diabetes which focused mainly on European or Asian people, highlighting the importance of doing this kind of research across a wide range of populations. 

The gene seems to be involved in controlling the levels of a type of fat that's involved in diabetes, and the researchers hope their discovery will lead to improvements in the ways in which the disease is detected, prevented and treated.

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