Combating the Diabetes Pandemic

Type 2 diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes, is a pandemic in the United States. 29 million people are already diagnosed, with nearly 79 million additional people considered pre-diabetic and at risk for developing the full-blown disease. Obesity is the leading cause of diabetes in those that are genetically predisposed to it, making the disease completely preventable. And yet the number of new diagnoses continues to rise. How do we, as a nation, provide effective intervention? Or better yet, prevention? Genomics holds the key.

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Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

There are 65 known genetic variations that increase risk for type 2 diabetes 10%-45%. Family history plays an important role as well. Having relatives with diabetes doubles or triples individual risk, depending on the degree of relation. Being aware of personal risk helps individuals make more informed lifestyle choices. This type of intervention is completely personal, and thus more likely to lead to healthier choices.

Genomics goes beyond calculating risk, it can also guide treatment towards personalized therapies. There are genetic variants on the section of DNA that regulates fatty-acid storage and glucose metabolism, identified as PPAR-gamma. Carriers of these variations show more blood sugar lowering effects in response to rosiglitazone and pioglitazone therapies compared to individuals without the variants. A genome analysis shows that these treatments will be effective in the right patient.

Research into the human genome has revealed valuable information about the genesis of adult-onset diabetes in the body. Translating this knowledge to be able to effectively predict and treat the disease represents the power of genomics.  Not only can we accurately predict risk for diabetes, but build customized treatments for patients who have already contracted it. There is a lot of talk in the media about the promise of genomics. The promise has been delivered on.

-Josh

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Ashley says:

    Times article today discussing the the Diabetes Prevention Program! Exemplifying how vast of an issue this is for Americans: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/15/beating-back-the-risk-of-diabetes/?ref=health

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