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DNA tweak no good for diabetics

Increased protein production could harm eyes, kidneys

4:06pm, May 5, 2008

A little tweak to a diabetic’s DNA could tip the balance toward blindness and kidney failure, a new study shows.

Natural variation in just a single base pair — letters of the genetic alphabet – raises levels of erythropoietin, a protein that stimulates red blood cell production and the growth of blood vessels. Bumping up erythropoietin, EPO for short, about doubles the risk that diabetics will develop diabetic retinopathy and end-stage kidney disease, a study published online and in the May 13 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows.

Controlling erythropoietin levels or blocking its activity could help diabetics stave off complications or halt the progression of diseases already attacking eyes and kidneys. The research also sounds a cautionary note for diabetics who undergo kidney dialysis. Erythropoietin is often prescribed to dialysis patients to pump up red blood cell counts, but the new research suggests that EPO should b

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