Last week, two major advancements were made in the field of diabetes research that could revolutionize the way doctors and researchers treat the chronic disease.
p. A genetic test that identifies whether a person has a genetic variation that doubles the risk of developing Type II diabetes, DeCode T2, was developed by the Icelandic biotechnology firm DeCode Genetics, Inc.
p. Research by Duk-Hee Lee and her research team at Kyungpook National University, located in South Korea, suggests that persistent organic pollutants (POPs), such as PCBs and DDT, can bio-accumulate in fatty tissue and can lead to an increased risk of developing diabetes during adulthood (Type II diabetes).
According to Bloomberg, the genetic variation that the test identifies is present in around 8 to 11 percent of the population.
The genetic variation, named single-nucleotide polymorphisms, increases the risk of developing diabetes from the average of 7 percent to around 14 percent.
p. If people test positive for the variation, the information will be a valuable asset in preventing the future onset of diabetes.
Alterations in lifestyle, such as modest exercise and a well-regulated diet, can be enough to prevent the development of Type II diabetes once a person is found to have the genetic variation.
p. In a Reuters interview, the Chief Executive of DeCode, Kari Stefansson, commented on the implications of the test.
“This happens to be a risk that you can do something about,” Stefansson said.
p. In the same interview, Stefansson suggested that there would be similar tests in the future for other diseases such as prostate cancer.
p. “In the next year or two it is not unreasonable to expect that we will have somewhere between five and 10 tests on the market,” Stefansson said.
p. DeCode says that the test will cost around $500, and doctors simply have to take a drop of blood or inner cheek swab and then send it off to be analyzed at DeCode’s laboratories.
p. The future of genetic variation analysis will most likely be in predicting how people with certain genetic traits respond to drug therapies and other treatments.
p. Duk-Hee Lee’s research reflects a growing understanding of how humans are affected by environmental degradation.
p. NewScientist.com discusses Lee’s work and states that PCBs and DDT that are left in the food chain, even if they are no longer used, are contributing to a build-up of POPs in the fatty tissue of humans and animals.
p. This increase in POPs may work in conjunction with obesity to increase the risk of diabetes.
p. Robert Lustig, an endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco, suggests that the role of POPs in the development of diabetes may be more complicated than currently believed.
In a NewScientist.com article, Lustig states that some animal studies show that environmental toxins in the womb can lead to an increased risk of obesity, which in turn can lead to an increased risk of developing diabetes.
p. Type II diabetes refers to the adult onset of diabetes, where the body loses its ability to properly use insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, insulin is necessary to move glucose into cells where it can be used for energy.
p. If insulin cannot be used properly, the glucose cannot get into the cells, and it will build up in the blood, causing diabetes.
People who are most at risk for developing Type II diabetes are those who are overweight and do not regularly exercise.
Exercising and controlling diet are two excellent ways to prevent diabetes, whether one has the genetic variation or not.
p. The research surrounding diabetes and its causes demonstrates the continued scientific pursuit to better understand the human body and the illnesses that affect it.