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Published: 2007-12-04

Gene variant behind diabetes confirmed by Umeå study

NEWS Certain forms of the WFS1 gene that influence the risk of type 2 diabetes – also called adult-onset diabetes– have been confirmed for the first time by an international team of scientists led by Umeå University researcher Paul W. Franks. The findings have been published in the high-ranking diabetes journal, Diabetologia.

The WFS1 gene exists on chromosome 4 and encodes for the protein wolframin. It has been previously established that mutations in this gene cause a rare neurodegenerative disease, DIDMOAD (Wolfram syndrome). In August this year in the journal Nature Genetics, a team of scientists from the United Kingdom and United States discovered four common polymorphisms in the WFS1 gene that protect against type 2 diabetes and that imperfections in the mechanism can lead to illnesses.

The new study – with three of the discoverers as co-authors – confirms the findings on the basis of data from 14,139 diabetic patients and 16,109 control persons from Västerbotten and Skåne in Sweden, northern and eastern Finland, United Kingdom, France, and USA. Thus, the WFS1 gene is only the eleventh gene to date that has been discovered and confirmed with an association to type 2 diabetes.

In a complementary paper in the same issue of Diabetologia, Paul Franks and his colleagues from universities in Cambridge, UK, and Harvard, USA, discuss how these gene polymorphisms influence the manner in which patients respond to drug treatment for high blood sugar or intensive changes in life style. In that study, lead by Harvard researcher Jose Florez, Franks and his collaborators show that the WFS1 genotypes influence the process in which the body produces insulin, which likely explains the effect of these genotypes on diabetes risk. Discovery of this gene may lead to the development of medicines for type 2 diabetes treatment.

The Umeå scientists that have participated in the study are Paul W. Franks, Medicine; Olov Rolandsson, Family Medicine; Tommy Olsson, Medicine, and Göran Hallmans, Nutrition – all are based at the Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umeå University.

For more information, contact Associate Professor Paul W. Franks Phone: +46 (0)90-785 33 54, Mobile: +46 (0)70-30 45755,
E-mail: paul.franks@medicin.umu.se


Franks PW, Rolandsson O, Debenham SL, Fawcett KA, Payne F, Dina C, Froguel P, Mohlke KL, Willer C, Olsson T, Wareham NJ, Hallmans G, Barroso I, Sandhu MS. Replication of the association between variants in WFS1 and risk of type 2 diabetes in European populations. Diabetologia. 2007 Nov; [Epub ahead of print] Florez JC, Jablonski KA, McAteer J, Sandhu MS, Wareham NJ, Barroso I, Franks PW, Altshuler D, Knowler WC: for the Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group. Testing of diabetes-associated WFS1 polymorphisms in the Diabetes Prevention Program. Diabetologia. 2007 Dec; [Epub ahead of print]

Editor: Hans Fällman