Search For Adult-Onset Diabetes Gene Narrowed

FRIDAY, MAY 31, 1996

In a step toward unlocking the secrets of the most common form of diabetes, researchers have found the apparent location of a diabetes gene that affects Mexican-Americans.

The finding could have implications beyond that ethnic group for understanding and treating the common form of so-called type 2 diabetes, which affects some 15 million Americans.

“This is a big breakthrough,” said Dr. Steven Elbein of the University of Utah, who was not involved in the research but also is seeking type 2 genes.

Scientists believe several genes play a role in susceptibility to the common form of the disease, which usually develops in people older than 40, especially the overweight. But no such gene has been found.

The new study did not actually identify such a gene, but it gives strong evidence that a susceptibility gene lies somewhere within a particular region of chromosome 2, one of the stringlike structures in cells that carry genes.

The region does not contain any known genes that obviously would play a role in diabetes, said researcher Graeme Bell. So, once the gene is identified, it probably will reveal a diabetes-related system that hasn’t been considered yet, he said.

Bell said the research gives scientists a starting point to find the locations of other diabetes susceptibility genes in Mexican-Americans and other ethnic groups. “We have our foot in the door,” he said.

As scientists identify type 2 diabetes genes, they may learn enough about the underpinnings of the disease to design new drugs for treatment or prevention, experts said.

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