The Genetics of Diabetes
Why me? How did I deserve this? Am I to blame? These are questions that many people ask when diagnosed with a serious condition or disease.
Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer when it comes to diabetes. Unlike some traits, diabetes doesn’t seem to be inherited in a simple pattern, and there is a lot of misinformation out there about its causes. (Have you ever had to explain that diabetes doesn’t happen because someone ate too much sugar?)
It’s apparent, though, that some people are born more likely to develop diabetes than others. We know that type 1 and type 2 diabetes have different causes, but genetics plays an important role in both types. People with diabetes inherit a predisposition to the disease, then something in their environment triggers it.
Identical twins are proof that genes alone are not enough, however. Identical twins have identical genes; therefore, they should have the same genetic risk for a disease—right? Not necessarily. Research has found that if one identical twin has type 1 diabetes, the other twin will get the disease about 50 percent of the time. For type 2 diabetes, that risk rises to as much as 4 in 5. In both type 1 and type 2, identical twins have a much higher risk of both developing diabetes than non-identical (fraternal) twins, which further supports the fact that genetics is involved.
So what are the causes of type 1 diabetes? Again, we know that genetics is involved. We also know that it’s not just one gene responsible, but many different genes, each of which contributes only a small part of the risk. Scientists have id Continue reading