LONDON, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) -- British scientists reported on Thursday they have discovered the first single gene cause of increased sensitivity to the hormone insulin, which may lead to new treatments for diabetes.
Researchers at University of Oxford reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that a mutation in the gene PTEN could increase sensitivity to insulin, which is the key hormone in diabetes.
"Insulin resistance is a major feature of type 2 diabetes," said Dr. Anna Gloyn at Oxford, "the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas may be working hard and pumping out lots of insulin, but the body's cells no longer respond."
"Finding a genetic cause of the opposite - insulin sensitivity - gives us a new window on the biological processes involved. Such understanding could be important in developing new drugs that restore insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetes."
The discovery came from glucose tolerance tests with people diagnosed with a disease called Cowden syndrome, who showed significantly higher insulin sensitivity than common people.
The research meant that the mutation in gene PTEN is also accompanied by some healthy risks, and a lot of more work need to be done before it is explored to treat diabetes.
"We now know that mutations that inactivate the PTEN gene result in increased cancer risk and obesity, but also increase insulin sensitivity which is very likely to protect against type 2 diabetes," Gloyn said.
"While there are promising research avenues to pursue here, in the meantime the best way to avoid diabetes remains exercising more and eating less," she added.