Diabetes causes a number of complications, particularly in terms of kidney damage and retinal issues. Preventing long-term complications is a constant concern. Now, researchers have discovered that the likelihood of developing such problems may well be part of the genetic lottery.
Researchers in Finland have isolated two genetic mutations that appear to lower the risk of bearers contracting a diabetic retinal or kidney disease. Both of these types of damage are linked to issues with the capillaries, the smallest blood vessels in the body. Because of their small size, these vessels are easily blocked or broken.
The issue with diabetes and capillaries is that high blood sugar levels cause this type of damage, and it is cumulative over a lifetime. People with diabetes who do not keep their blood sugar levels under strict control are therefore likely to accumulate at least some of this type of damage.
The Role of vitamin B1
The research was carried out to investigate the implications of previous work that indicated that vitamin B1 within cells can prevent some of the damage done by high blood sugar. The hypothesis tested was that the mutations in question encouraged transport of the vitamin into cells, allowing it to be more effective. An extremely comprehensive research data set of patients with Type 1 diabetes was compiled by the researchers, who then checked correlations between genetic profiles and the severity of any diabetic complications.
After initial results from Europe were analyzed, a similar data set from North American patients was analyzed in the same way. Results from this appear to confirm that these mutations, both on the SLC19A3 gene, were associated with reduced risks for retinopathy and neuropathy, protecting both the eyes and kidneys.
Further research into point mutations of this type is now required to confirm the significance of these particular variants in relation to other mutations. Finding non-genetic ways to increase vitamin B1 uptake within cells is also likely to be a focus for research in the future. While this mutation may provide clues to researchers about directions they can head in to help all diabetes sufferers, for now it helps only those with that specific mutation. Ways to help prevent diabetic complications that every person with diabetes can benefit from include keeping up regular exercise, eating a plant-based diet, and managing blood sugar levels effectively.Whizzco