Nav: Home

Metabolic genetics research paves way to treating diabetes and obesity

October 19, 2014

BETHESDA, MD - Breaking down complex conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes and obesity into the specific metabolic proteins and processes that underlie them offers a new approach to studying the genetics of these diseases and how they are interrelated, according to research presented today at the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) 2014 Annual Meeting in San Diego.

By studying specific proteins that contribute to such conditions - and the genes that encode them - scientists can develop new drugs that directly target the metabolic processes that do not function properly, explained lead author Jennifer E. Below, PhD, of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health.

"In fact, genes that affect the same process at the protein level can end up influencing multiple traits in tandem," said Dr. Below. Working with colleagues at the Baylor College of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and the University of Chicago, Dr. Below found that genes that regulate a person's circadian cycle affect quality of sleep but could also put him or her at risk for diabetes. Similarly, the researchers learned, a group of related proteins involved in immune system functions and interactions between cells also plays a role in heart health.

"Findings such as this highlight the importance of capturing the array of effects of genes, rather than treating each analysis as independent. Traits don't exist in silos; they are richly connected and interacting, and we benefit by acknowledging this in our genetic analyses," Dr. Below said.

The researchers have focused their efforts in Starr County, Texas, a community where trends in obesity and Type 2 Diabetes rates have steadily remained about 30 years ahead of the rest of the country. They have sequenced the genomes of more than 1,400 people in Starr County, studying relationships among many traits that affect obesity and diabetes, such as weight, sleep patterns, heart health, eye health, immune function, fat levels, and blood pressure. This allows them to tease apart the roles of lifestyle and environmental factors, including how these traits may affect one another.

"Rates of obesity and diabetes have been increasing at an alarming pace in recent decades," Dr. Below said. "While we know that the genes present in Starr County haven't changed over that period, genetics still presents the best opportunity to study what's happening. By breaking these conditions down into detailed traits and genetic sequence data, we could inform potential treatments," she explained.

In the future, Dr. Below and colleagues plan to study families in order to analyze rare genetic variants that may be present in larger numbers than in the general population, some of which may have a major effect on disease.

"The community has been extremely supportive of our research, which will give us the ability to follow up with families to study the health effects of these rare, large-effect genetic mutations across time and generations," she said.

Other planned work includes analyzing the effects of rare genetic variants on metabolic processes beyond those known to affect obesity and diabetes, within families as well as in the broader population of Starr County. For example, the researchers have taken a detailed look at the proteins and processes involved in eye diseases such as retinal cardiomyopathy, which they plan to expand upon with a focus on family analyses and patterns of inheritance.
-end-
Press Availability: Dr. Below and Craig L. Hanis, both of UTHealth, will be available to discuss this research with interested media on Monday, October 20, 2014, from 2:00-3:00 p.m., in the ASHG 2014 Press Office (Room 22).

Reference: Below JE et al. (2014 Oct 19).

Abstract: Genome wide association and exome sequence data analysis for more than 100 traits in Mexican Americans.

Presented at American Society of Human Genetics 2014 Annual Meeting. San Diego, Calif.

American Society of Human Genetics

Related Diabetes Articles:

Diabetes drug boosts survival in patients with type 2 diabetes and COVID-19 pneumonia
Sitagliptin, a drug to lower blood sugar in type 2 diabetes, also improves survival in diabetic patients hospitalized with COVID-19, suggests a multicenter observational study in Italy.
Making sense of diabetes
Throughout her 38-year nursing career, Laurel Despins has progressed from a bedside nurse to a clinical nurse specialist and has worked in medical, surgical and cardiac intensive care units.
Helping teens with type 1 diabetes improve diabetes control with MyDiaText
Adolescence is a difficult period of development, made more complex for those with Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM).
Diabetes-in-a-dish model uncovers new insights into the cause of type 2 diabetes
Researchers have developed a novel 'disease-in-a-dish' model to study the basic molecular factors that lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, uncovering the potential existence of major signaling defects both inside and outside of the classical insulin signaling cascade, and providing new perspectives on the mechanisms behind insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes and possibly opportunities for the development of novel therapeutics for the disease.
Tele-diabetes to manage new-onset diabetes during COVID-19 pandemic
Two new case studies highlight the use of tele-diabetes to manage new-onset type 1 diabetes in an adult and an infant during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Genetic profile may predict type 2 diabetes risk among women with gestational diabetes
Women who go on to develop type 2 diabetes after having gestational, or pregnancy-related, diabetes are more likely to have particular genetic profiles, suggests an analysis by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other institutions.
Maternal gestational diabetes linked to diabetes in children
Children and youth of mothers who had gestational diabetes during pregnancy are at increased risk of diabetes themselves, according to new research published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
Two diabetes medications don't slow progression of type 2 diabetes in youth
In youth with impaired glucose tolerance or recent-onset type 2 diabetes, neither initial treatment with long-acting insulin followed by the drug metformin, nor metformin alone preserved the body's ability to make insulin, according to results published online June 25 in Diabetes Care.
People with diabetes visit the dentist less frequently despite link between diabetes, oral health
Adults with diabetes are less likely to visit the dentist than people with prediabetes or without diabetes, finds a new study led by researchers at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and East Carolina University's Brody School of Medicine.
Diabetes, but not diabetes drug, linked to poor pregnancy outcomes
New research indicates that pregnant women with pre-gestational diabetes who take metformin are at a higher risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes -- such as major birth defects and pregnancy loss -- than the general population, but their increased risk is not due to metformin but diabetes.
More Diabetes News and Diabetes Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.