Researchers at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT have discovered several gene mutations that potentially protect against type 2 diabetes, according to a journal article published in Nature Genetics earlier this month.
The study identified individuals from Finland and Sweden who, despite their high risk for diabetes, never contracted the disease. Scientists isolated the mutations in the SLC308A gene in the hopes of identifying drug targets that could lower patient risk.
The scientists found that carriers of the gene mutation have a 65 percent reduced risk of contracting the diseases, suggesting protectionist qualities.
"Our study identified several mutations in a gene… each of which inactivates the protein that it makes," said Jason A. Flannik, lead researcher and fellow in genetics at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Flannik also suggested that the inactivity of this protein could be mimicked through drugs which inactivate its growth. If developed, these therapies could provide the general population with the benefits of the mutation.
"Because these people walking around with only one copy of SLC30A8 are protected against type 2 diabetes… it suggests that if you designed a drug to inhibit or reduce activity of SLC30A8, it might prevent or treat type 2 diabetes," Flannik wrote in an email.
The Broad Institute's press release on the study agreed, saying, "The results were seen in patients from multiple ethnic groups, suggesting that a drug that mimics that effect of these mutations might have broad utility around the globe."