In a recent study, researchers have found a new gene that is thought to be critical in the regulation of insulin, which is the key hormone diabetes, from a family with both high and low blood sugar conditions.
The study, published in the journal PNAS, showed that besides Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, nearly 1-2 per cent of cases of the blood sugar condition is due to impairment in a gene called MAFA. It can impair production of insulin and also cause insulinomas -- insulin-producing tumours in pancreas.
A team of researchers examined the unique case of a family for this study. Several individuals from the family suffered from diabetes, while other members developed insulinomas in their pancreas.
Experts say that insulinomas tumours are typically caused by low blood sugar levels. This is in contrast to diabetes which leads to high blood sugar levels. "We were initially surprised about the association of two apparently contrasting conditions within the same families -- diabetes which is associated with high blood sugar and insulinomas associated with low blood sugar," lead author Marta Korbonits, Professor at the Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) said.
"Our research shows that, surprisingly, the same gene defect can impact the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas to lead to these two opposing medical conditions," Korbonits added.
According to the study, males were more prone to developing diabetes. But, insulinomas were more commonly found in females. However, the reasons behind this difference are as still not known.
This latest study is the first time when a defect in MAFA gene has been linked with a disease. The resultant mutant protein was found to be abnormally stable, having a longer life in the cell, and therefore significantly more abundant in the beta cells than its normal version.