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Hyderabad, May 17

SCIENTISTS have identified the gene that could be responsible for the genetic susceptibility among South Asians in general, and South Indians in particular, to type-2 diabetes.

Announcing this here on Tuesday, Dr V. Mohan, the Chennai-based diabetologist heading Dr Mohan's MV Diabetes Specialities Centre, said his colleagues in collaboration with scientists at the US-based SouthWestern University of Texas did the research.

"The studies have successfully identified a particular gene, ENPP1, which serves as an early warning signal for type-2 diabetes among South Asians. The researchers have evaluated three groups - South Asians, South Asians living in Dallas and Caucasians living in Dallas - three populations that differ in susceptibility to diabetes and environmental exposure," Dr Mohan said.

According to him, the study showed that the gene (ENPP1) plays a strong predictive role in type-2 diabetes in South Asians and in Caucasians. The findings also supported the hypothesis that the gene was associated with genetic susceptibility and might identify individuals at risk for type-2 diabetes in both Caucasians and South Asians.

Dr Mohan said the gene encodes a protein that blocks the action of insulin. The genetic variation increases the action of this protein and blocks insulin action further. Further gene studies were expected to reveal more accurate results that were useful in detecting people belonging to various ethnic groups susceptible to type-2 diabetes and in suggesting them preventive measures, he said.

"Though further studies are necessary, the latest study results suggest that the gene variant might serve as an important genetic marker in identifying people at risk for type-2 diabetes," Dr Mohan said.

The study revealed that certain ethnic populations appear to have a higher risk of developing type-2 diabetes, whether overweight or not, particularly South Asians - people originating from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The study focussed on 679 South Asians living in Chennai, 1,083 South Asians living in Dallas who were new immigrants or first-generation immigrants from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh, and 858 non-migrant Caucasians living in Dallas.

Dr Mohan said his team's studies showed that Indians have a greater degree of insulin resistance compared to Europeans and other ethnic groups. Indians also have greater fat deposits in the abdominal area (visceral fat), which contributes to diabetes.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated May 18, 2005)
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