Diabetes: Body Clock Gene, Melatonin and Increased Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

By Laura Brooks
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In several past posts, I've blogged about genetics and type 2 diabetes.  Now more research finds a possible connection between the disease and a gene responsible for our internal 'clock.'

Published online on December 7th in Nature Genetics, an international group of scientists revealed the results of studying ten genome-wide association scans covering over 36,000 people of European descent:  a variation of a gene (called melatonin receptor 1B (MTNR1B)) which regulates how our body reacts to the 24-hour day cycle (or body clock) is strongly associated with high blood sugar and may also lead to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Melatonin, which is a hormone that falls during the day and reaches a top level at night and can be involved in sleep disturbances such as insomnia and jetlag. Sleep problems have been known to affect a variety of other health problems, including diabetes. Melatonin, and the sleep patterns it regulates, also affects the pancreas, which does not produce insulin properly in diabetic patients.

"We have extremely strong, incontrovertible evidence that the gene encoding melatonin receptor 1B is associated with high fasting glucose levels and increased risk of type 2 diabetes," says Co-author Professor Mark McCarthy of the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism at the University of Oxford, UK.

Scientists still need to find the exact mechanism for this link between the melatonin receptor 1B, insulin production and diabetes, but this study is one more step in the right direction.

(Read the full article at Medical News Today)

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