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Scientists Find Gene Linked to Insulin Resistance, Other Diabetes Traits

Sep 20, 2014 07:13 AM EDT
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Diabetes affects as many as 29 million people in the United States alone. Scientists have now found a new gene associated with fasting glucose and insulin levels in animal and human models. The research can help scientists better understand the molecular basis of this chronic disease.

The study was conducted by researchers at Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and colleagues. The team identified the gene in rat, mice and human models. Their finding is published in the journal Genetics.

People suffering from diabetes show resistance to insulin - a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. Beta cell dysfunction and glucose tolerance are other characteristics of diabetes type-2.

The gene - Tpcn2 - has a variant that regulates fasting glucose levels in rats. The researchers used genetically altered mice to study the activity of this gene. The mice that lacked Tpcn2 had difference in glucose levels as well as insulin response when compared to normal mice, researchers said.

The team also found variants within Tpcn2 that are linked to fasting glucose insulin in human models. According to the researchers, the gene is a lysosomal calcium channel that probably plays a role in insulin use by the body.

"Genome-wide association studies in humans have identified 60+ genes linked to type 2 diabetes; however, these genes explain only a small portion of heritability in diabetes studies. As we continue to identify genes and variants of interest, we will evaluate them in multiple models to understand the mechanism of disease," Leah Solberg Woods, PhD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at MCW, lead author of the study, according to a news release.

High level of blood sugar can lead to several chronic health problems. Several research groups are looking for genetic cues that could help humans beat or at least control the disease. Recently, Danish scientists identified a gene variant that can increase diabetes type-2 risk by upto ten times.

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