Genes can play a major defensive role against both type 2 diabetes and heart disease, a new study finds.
Individuals with the trait aren’t immune from the conditions, researchers say, but a study of nearly 7 900 subjects found that they are as much as 48 percent less likely to suffer from either illness.
A gene variation in mice appears to provide protection against type 2 diabetes and clogged arteries. In the new study, researchers examined the medical and genetic records of 7 899 people to see if the variation did the same thing for humans.
The study findings appear in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
A total of 4.3 percent of the people studied had one copy of the variant gene, Eric Rimm, an associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston said.
These people appear to have won a kind of genetic lottery, because levels of triglycerides - a potentially dangerous type of blood fat - were 12 percent lower in their blood than in the other subjects. Their risk of heart disease was also 34 percent lower, and if they were obese, their risk for type 2 diabetes was 48 percent less than that of obese individuals who did not carry the gene variant.
Rimm suspects that the genetic variation helps control molecular signals that influence how triglycerides circulate in the blood.
According to Rimm, it’s possible that a better understanding of the genetics of diabetes and heart disease could lead to more effective treatments. If you could emulate what this form of this gene is doing, maybe you could lower someone’s risk of heart disease or diabetes by copying the same type of physiological effects.