Mutant Gene Protects Against Type 2 Diabetes Offering Path to New Drugs
What to Know
Advancing age and overweight/obesity increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, but they don’t guarantee that the disease will develop. Certain genetic factors appear to offer some protection against diabetes even when such risk factors exist. In this study, researchers set out to determine which genes are potentially protecting people who have multiple type 2 diabetes risk factors from actually developing the disease.
Researchers collected genetic information from 352 people who were young and lean and had type 2 diabetes and 406 people who were overweight and elderly but who did not have the disease. The researchers looked for genes that were more common in the overweight elderly but not diabetic group. The study group was too small to draw many conclusions, but the researchers did find evidence of mutations in a gene (the SLC30A8 gene) that may protect against diabetes, so they expanded their genetic testing to 150,000 people to see if that gene was truly linked to type 2 diabetes.
The researchers found that people with mutations that destroyed the function of SLC30A8 had a 65 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
Developing chemicals that inhibit the SLC30A8 gene, mimicking the destruction caused by mutations, could lead to new and highly effective medications for type 2 diabetes. At this stage, though, the researchers don’t yet know what this gene does or exactly how it’s related to diabetes. More research is required.
Loss-of-function mutations in SLC30A8 protect against type 2 diabetes. By Flannick and colleagues. Nature Genetics 2014;46:357-63 https://doi.org/10.1038/ng.2915