Gene variant boosts diabetes risk

From Orlando, Fla., at a meeting of the American Diabetes Association

Researchers studying the Old Order Amish people of eastern Pennsylvania have found that variant forms of two genes show up more often among those who have type 2, or adult-onset, diabetes than in those without the disease.

The genes, called AdipoR1 and AdipoR2, encode proteins that sit on the surface of cells and serve as docking ports for adiponectin, a hormone released by fat cells. Previous research suggested that adiponectin helps regulate the cellular metabolism of fat (SN: 4/17/04, p. 245: Fat Chance: Hormone boosts metabolic rate, induces weight loss in mice).

Preliminary analysis suggests that the variant forms of the two genes result in low numbers of working receptors, perhaps decreasing adiponectin’s capacity to stimulate fat breakdown, says geneticist Coleen Damcott of the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. That in turn might predispose a person to develop diabetes, she speculates. Screening for these genetic variations, therefore, could identify some people at increased risk of the disease, she says.