Researchers identify single gene that controls many risk factors for type 2 diabetes

A team of British researchers has found that the KLF14 gene, which was already known to play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol levels, may serve a much broader purpose in the body, regulating many metabolic functions.

Their study, which was published in the journal Nature Genetics, indicates that the new understanding of this gene may pave the way for future treatments for type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

Researchers from King's College London and Oxford University analyzed DNA taken from the fat tissue of more than 800 women from the UK. The study examined associations between more than 20,000 different genes.

The findings showed that expression levels of KLF14 were associated with the expression of several other genes present in fat tissue, which the researchers took as a sign that KLF14 acts as a master switch for these other genetic areas.

The genes that were shown to be dependent on KLF14 are known to be involved in many areas of metabolic health, including body mass index, cholesterol levels, insulin and glucose tolerance. This indicates that the single gene may control many risk factors for type 2 diabetes, as well as for other metabolic conditions.

The researchers said that they are hopeful that their findings could lead to the development of new medications that act on KLF14 to reduce genetic susceptibility to a number of risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

"This is the first major study that shows how small changes in one master regulator gene can cause a cascade of other metabolic effects in other genes," said Tim Spector, a professor at King's College London, one of the researchers involved in the investigation. "This has great therapeutic potential."