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Joslin researchers discover new gene for type 2 diabetes using DNA chips

BOSTON - Using the newest DNA chip technology, scientists at Joslin Diabetes Center have discovered a new gene implicated in the cause of type 2 diabetes. In a new study appearing in the August 12 issue of the journal Cell, the investigators first identified genes that were altered in their level of expression in islets isolated from people with type 2 diabetes. The researchers then went on to show that when they created a defect in one of these genes called ARNT in mice, the mice developed alterations in insulin secretion that were like those in humans with type 2 diabetes.

The ARNT (aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator) gene is a member of a family of transcription factors essential for normal embryonic development and also is involved in response to conditions of hypoxia and certain environmental toxins, such as dioxin. Transcription factors like ARNT control the expression and activity of many other genes in the cell and thus serve as master regulators of cell function. As a component of the response to toxins and hypoxic stress, ARNT is also at a potential site to integrate genetic and environmental insults.

"While previous work suggested defects in other pathways in a small percentage of people with type 2 diabetes, what was unexpected was that the islets (beta cells) from all of the people with type 2 diabetes studied demonstrated a marked down-regulation of the nuclear transcription factor ARNT," said C. Ronald Kahn, M.D., President and Director of Joslin Diabetes Center and the Mary K. Iacocca Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, who led the research team. "These findings provide new insights into the pathogenesis of the most common forms of type 2 diabetes and a possible new target for treatment of this disease," he said.

The investigators, including lead author Jenny Elizabeth Gunton, M.B.B.S., F.R.A.C.P., Ph.D., a C.J. Martin Fellowship recipient from Australia, then went on to demonstrate that reduci
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