First the facts. The number of diabetes patients in India is expected to reach 100 million by 2030, according to the latest Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) study. And the number of type 2 diabetics is rapidly increasing in our country.
To add to their woes, researchers in Mexico and the US have uncovered a new genetic clue that contributes to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The team discovered a risk gene for type 2 diabetes that had gone undetected in previous efforts. People who carry the higher risk version of the gene are 25 percent more likely to have diabetes than those who do not, and people who inherited them from parents are 50 percent more likely to have diabetes, said the study.
“To date, genetic studies have largely used samples from people of European or Asian ancestry which makes it possible to miss culprit genes that are altered at different frequencies in other populations,” said study author José Florez, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
“By expanding our search to include samples from Mexico and Latin America, we've found one of the strongest genetic risk factors discovered till date, which could illuminate new pathways to target with drugs and a deeper understanding of the disease,” he added.
The higher risk form of the gene - named SLC16A11 - has been found in up to half of people who have recent Native American ancestry, including Latin Americans. The variant is found in about 20 percent of East Asians and is rare in populations from Europe and Africa.
The elevated frequency of this risk gene in Latin Americans could account for as much as 20 percent of the populations' increased prevalence of type 2 diabetes - the origins of which are not well understood.
“We are now using this information to design new studies that aim to understand how this variant influences metabolism and disease, with the hope of eventually developing improved risk assessment and possibly therapy,” said Teresa Tusie-Luna, principal investigator at the Biomedical Research Institute, National University of Mexico.
"One of the most exciting aspects of this work is that we've uncovered a new clue about the biology of diabetes," said co-senior author David Altshuler.
"We are now trying to figure out what is being transported, how this influences triglyceride metabolism and what steps lead to the development of type 2 diabetes,” he added.
The team’s ultimate goal is to reach a deeper understanding of this pathway to find new drug targets for treating diabetes.