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Gene flaw found in uncommon diabetes.

Between 100,000 and 500,000 people in the United States suffer from maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY), an uncommon form of Type II diabetes that develops before age 25. Although most people with MODY do not have to take insulin injections, they run an increased risk of heart disease, blindness and kidney failure.

Researchers at the University of Chicago and several institutions in France have now discovered a gene defect that could underlie 80 percent of MODY cases. The group, led in the United States by Graeme I. Bell, found a flaw in the gene for the enzyme glucokinase in a French family with 15 MODY patients. The scientists present their findings in the April 23 NATURE.

Bell's team asserts that the defect causes MODY patients to produce insufficient amounts of glucokinase, which they believe is required for pancreatic cells to detect sugar concentrations in the blood. Accordingly, the researchers hypothesize, the pancreas fails to secrete the proper amount of insulin.

Bell told Science News his group has recently detected a defective form of the same gene in a family with conventional non-insulin-dependent diabetes, which affects roughly 13 million people in the United States. Most of these patients develop the disease as they age or if they become obese.

Richard Kahn, a physician at the American Diabetes Association, terms the finding "an important piece of work in regard to understanding the genetics of diabetes altogether."
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Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:May 2, 1992
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