Uncovering New Clues About the Biology of Diabetes

Calling it among the most important findings ever made in diabetes research, a team of researchers from Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital discovered a gene sequence that, when present, boosts the risk factor for type 2 diabetes up by 25 percent compared to people who do not have the gene, and 50 percent in those who inherit it from both parents.

The gene sequence SLC16A11 was discovered after the largest genetic study to date involving a Mexican and Mexican-American cohort. Prior genetic studies have involved a cross-section of people from much broader geographical areas and genetic origins.

The team concluded that among the cohort, those who had recent Native American ancestry were twice as likely to carry the culprit gene sequence compared to those who did not.

"One of the most exciting aspects of this work is that we've uncovered a new clue about the biology of diabetes," said senior author David Altshuler, Deputy Director and Chief Academic Officer at the Broad Institute and a Harvard Medical Professor. "We are now hard at work trying to figure out what is being transported, how this influences triglyceride metabolism, and what steps lead to the development of type 2 diabetes."

Photo: Genetic Literacy Project, Hungry For Change

The study found that those who had recent Native American ancestry were twice as likely to carry the SLC16A11 gene sequence.