By Denise Reynolds RD for EmaxHealth.com
Melatonin is a hormone that is strongly tied to control of sleep-wake cycles. Chronic disruption to sleep is linked to many health effects, including a stronger risk for Type 2 diabetes. Researchers with the Imperial College London delved deeper into this process and discovered a gene that when mutated cause an increased risk for altered blood sugar. The findings could lead to new, personalized treatments for the disease.
The MT2 protein is a receptor for melatonin, encoded by a gene known as melatonin receptor 1B or MTNR1B. Mutations in this gene disrupt the proper functioning of melatonin, which in part regulates the release of insulin that controls blood sugar levels. In 2008, researchers at Imperial College London discovered some common variations in this genetic process which slightly increased the risk of Type 2 diabetes. However, in this new study, the team drilled down to four rare mutations which increases the risk of the disease by almost six times.
Professor Philippe Froguel, from the School of Public Health, examined the MT2 gene in over 7,600 people at several institutions in the UK and France. Overall, the found 40 variants associated with Type 2 diabetes. Four of these were rare, but rendered the melatonin receptor completely incapable of responding to melatonin, suggesting a direct link between the gene mutation and diabetes.
The scientists then confirmed the link with these four variants in an additional sample of almost 12,000 people.
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