Single gene may be responsible for increased type 2 diabetes risk

A variation of a single gene may be responsible for an increased type 2 diabetes risk, according to a new study from a team of Italian researchers. The findings could have important implications for the diagnosis and treatment of the condition in the future.

The team reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that an alteration of the HMGA1 gene is particularly common in individuals who have type 2 diabetes and may be a cause of increased susceptibility to the condition.

It has long been proposed that there may be a hereditary component to type 2 diabetes. Doctors have noted higher rates of the disease among families. However, there was little scientific evidence to suggest whether this was the result of bad genes or an unhealthy environment shared by all members of the family.

The new study from researchers at the University of Catanzaro in Italy examined the medical records and analyzed the DNA of thousands of participants from across Europe and the U.S. They found that participants who had type 2 diabetes were 16 times more likely to have a specific variation of the HMGA1 gene. No other gene correlated as strongly to the presence of the disease.

The researchers said that their findings were important because it may be possible to create medical tests for HMGA1 variations that would predict an individual's risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This would allow doctors to design preventative intervention programs. Additionally, they believe that treatments for the condition could be developed that act on this gene.

"We believe our observation that nearly 10 percent of individuals with type 2 [diabetes mellitus] have deleterious variations in the gene encoding HMGA1 has important clinical implications," the researchers wrote in their report.