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New Findings on the Gene that Causes Diabetic Resistance

Posted Sep 27 2009 10:59pm
from Pharmacy Intern, Rosa Garcia, PharmD(c)
Palm Beach Atlantic University College of Pharmacy

Insulin is the transporter used to carry glucose into the cells for energy source. Beta cells secrete insulin in response to high glucose levels in the blood. When the pancreas is unable to properly secrete insulin due to beta cells destruction, a patient may be diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. In contrast, patients with Type 2 diabetes are able to secrete insulin, but their bodies are resistant to that insulin. Results from a new study conducted by multinational researchers indicate there is a gene responsible for insulin resistance in type 2 diabetic patients.

According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) medical guidelines, about 20.8 million Americans have diabetes. AACE medical guidelines also indicate that elderly patients (≥ 65 years old) have approximately 12 times greater incidence when compared to younger adults. Given the importance of this disease, many investigations have been conducted in order to be able to understand diabetes better. Previous attempts to identify causes of diabetes found genes that play a role in the function of the pancreas. In contrast, this new study that was conducted using genetic material from more than 6,000 subjects identified a gene that works very differently. Instead of affecting insulin secreted by the beta cells of the pancreas, the gene called Insulin Receptor Substrate 1 (IRS1) influences the effect of insulin in the body.

Dr. Robert Sladek, one of the researchers who participated in the investigation, indicated that IRS1 gene is the first thing inside the cell that is activated by insulin. According to Dr. Sladek, this gene gives the initial order for cells to start absorbing glucose to be transformed into energy. During the study researchers were also able to find the genetic trigger that causes a decreased in IRS1 gene activity, a DNA variation called single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP). Researchers indicate that this SNP causes a 40% reduction in the IRS1 gene and in its function. In addition to a better understating of the disease state, these findings can possibly change the way type 2 diabetes’s treatment is being approached today, and definitely opens the door to future research.
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