National study focuses on families of people with diabetes and obesity

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- A new national research project headquartered at Wake Forest University School of Medicine will study three generations of family members to determine how many of the precursors to adult onset (Type 2) diabetes and obesity are inherited.

The study will begin with patients currently participating in the national Insulin Resistance Atherosclerosis Study (IRAS) and extend to their families.

Lynne E. Wagenknecht, Dr. P.H., the project director, said, "The project will determine to what extent insulin resistance and obesity are inherited and which gene or genes are responsible for them."

She said insulin resistance is a condition that leads the body to produce excess insulin, cholesterol and body fat and appears to be a risk factor for heart disease.

"The study design best suited to answer this question is a family study, where a large number of family members -- brothers, sisters, their parents, and their children -- are recruited," said Wagenknecht, associate professor of public health sciences (epidemiology) at Wake Forest.

As in IRAS, the national coordinating center for the IRAS Family Study will be at Wake Forest, and the clinics will be in San Antonio, Tex., San Luis, Colo., and Los Angeles, Calif. The IRAS study involved 1,600 men and women between 40 and 69.

Donald W. Bowden, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and internal medicine (endocrinology/metabolism) at Wake Forest, will direct the study's genetics laboratory.

The total cost of the study, paid for by the National Institutes of Health, will be about $10.4 million. Grants to Wake Forest total $4.1 million.

Wagenknecht said 160 IRAS participants will be selected, each with families of 9-13 members. But because of the greater risk of diabetes for Hispanics and African-Americans, two- thirds of the families to be recruited will be Hispanics and one-third African-Americans.


Contact: Robert Conn, Jim Steele or Mark Wright
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center

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