16 January 2006

Diabetes Has A Strong Genetic Component

One of my uncles has diabetes and one of his daughters died of that disease. Perhaps not surprisingingly, type II Diabetes (which makes up 95% of diabetes cases in the United States) turns out to have a strong genetic component. I could be at risk myself, as could my children, and a test based on new research may make it possible to find out (allowing those testing positive to take special care early on to head off other risk factors for diabetes like obesity and helping their doctors be on the lookout for symptoms).

The estimated 38 percent of Americans who have inherited a single copy have a 45 percent greater risk of Type 2 than do unaffected members of the population. The estimated 7 percent who carry two copies are 141 percent more likely to develop the disease, according to the Decode researchers, who were led by Struan F.A. Grant.

What scientists call the "population-attributable risk" of the new variant is 21 percent, which means that if all the variant genes in the population were erased, 21 percent of diabetes cases also would be.

We owe this discovery largely to the good people of Iceland, who mutually agreed to surrender their privacy in order that the health records and genetic profiles of their entire population of about 100,000 people could be used to ferret out the link between heredity and a wide variety of diseases for the benefit of the entire world. American and Danish samples where then used to confirm the Danish result.

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