A group at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center recently used sophisticated metabolic measures and genetic analysis to probe the reason why people of Mexican ancestry are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those of European decent. Until this point, a disproportionately large focus of the scientific community has been placed on understanding Type 2 diabetes in Europeans, despite the two-times higher risk for Mexicans to develop the condition. The goal of the study was to analyze data from Mexican-Americans to see if there was a genetic link to metabolism in diabetes.
The team conducted their study, “Genetic Variants Associated with Quantitative Glucose Homeostasis Traits Translate to Type 2 Diabetes in Mexican Americans: The GUARDIAN (Genetics Underlying Diabetes in Hispanics) Consortium,” to examine the underlying causes of the disease and published their results in the journal Diabetes. “Our study confirms that Type 2 diabetes is a more complicated disease than we once thought,” stated Nicholette Allred, PhD, first author of the study and an assistant professor of biochemistry, in a news release from Wake Forest. “As we look more closely at the biology, there are many pathways that contribute to development of the disease, and now with high quality metabolic measures we will be able to directly examine and try to understand it.”
These pathways were elucidated through the use of metabolic measures and genotype analysis of more than 4,000 non-diabetic Mexican-American individuals in seven disparate studies. The goal was to determine the individuals’ glucose responses and establish associations between the body response to glucose and any genetic variants present in the individuals.
“Type 2 diabetes is really about how you dispose of your glucose–how long it sits in your bloodstream and how your organs react,” said Dr. Allred. “With Type 2 diabetes, there is interplay between insulin release from the pancreas and insulin response in the peripheral tissues.”
This interplay involves both shared and distinct genetic contributions. If future studies were to delineate how the genetic components contribute to developing Type 2 diabetes, genetic risk factors could be established to help determine the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Already, the team has extended their work to include data from individuals with confirmed Type 2 diabetes. “Hopefully [this study] will help us identify better targets for new drug therapies,” said Dr. Allred.