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Neanderthal Genome Sheds New Light on Diabetes

Categories: Current Research

A recent study has found that a gene variant that increases the risk of diabetes in Latin Americans may be inherited from Neanderthals. This gene was discovered in a GWAS (genome-wide association study) of over 8,000 various Latin Americans.

‘BBC News’ reported this story saying that the higher risk form of the gene has been found in up to half of the people with recent Native American ancestry, including Latin American.

The number of people coming from Latin American decent with the gene could account for 20% of the population’s increase in type 2 diabetes.

“To date, genetic studies have largely used samples from people of European or Asian ancestry, which makes it possible to miss culprit genes that are altered at different frequencies in other populations,” said co-author Jose Florez, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Florez also said to the BBC reporter that “By expanding our search to include samples from Mexico and Latin America, we’ve found one of the strongest genetic risk factors discovered to date, which could illuminate new pathways to target with drugs and a deeper understanding of the disease”

In a study in the journal Nature, researchers conducted analyses and discovered that the gene associated with type 2 diabetes is found in a newly coded Neanderthal genome. Further analyses provide evidence to believe that this arose from the modern human mixing with Neanderthals.

The researchers continued to run tests and found that changing the amount of the gene can alter the amount of fat that is related to the risk of diabetes. This has made the researchers believe that the gene may be involved in the transport of an unknown metabolite that increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.

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