There are nearly 26 million Americans living with diabetes, and type 2 diabetes accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all cases of the illness, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Obesity and sedentary lifestyles are commonly associated with the risk of developing diabetes, but there are many diabetes patients who are lean. Researchers from the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Exeter set out to investigate the theory that this group of diabetic individuals may have genetic predisposition to developing the illness.
The study involved collecting and examining genetic markers in 5,000 lean diabetics, 13,000 obese patients with diabetes and 75,000 healthy participants. The investigators found lean diabetes patients had genetic variants near the LAMA1 gene that could be linked to type 2 diabetes. This variant was not seen in obese individuals, which suggests there may be a new way to identify the risk of diabetes in certain individuals.
"Whenever a new disease gene is found, there is always the potential for it to be used as a drug target for new therapies or as a biomarker, but more work is needed to see whether or not this new gene has the potential," said study author Dr. John Perry. "This is the first time that a type 2 diabetes gene has been found to act in this way - we do not know why it should be associated in one subgroup of patients and not another. It could point to the fact that type 2 diabetes may not be one disease, but may represent a number of subgroups."
A senior living with diabetes may have a higher risk of developing heart disease and other health problems. The CDC states diabetes also makes the risk of having a stroke two to four times higher for diabetic individuals than those without the illness.