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Darn those neanderthals! Diabetes risk in Latin American linked to cavemen

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 26th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Diabetes is supposedly a punishment wielded against modern man on account of unhealthy diet and lack of exercise. However, researchers has found that in Latin America, a risk of predisposition to diabetes can be traced all the way back to the Neanderthals.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - An international team of researchers reports that this gene variant can be tied to the Neanderthals who left Africa roughly 60,000 to 70,000 years ago.

Known as SIGMA, an anagram for Slim Initiative in Genomic Medicine for the Americas, the group explained that the Neanderthal genes have been dispersed throughout the world and have been passed down through the genomes of non-African people as well.

Conducting a genome-wide associations study that data examined over 8,000 Mexicans and other Latin Americans. This particular study had examined the genomes of different people with the goal of finding links between people. The high risk gene variant for diabetes was dubbed by the group as SLC16A11.

People with SLC16A11 were 25 percent more likely to develop diabetes. Those who had received a copy of the gene from both parents had doubled the risk of developing diabetes. SLC16A11 was found in roughly half of the people who had a recent Native American family history, including Latin Americans. The variant is extremely rare in people of European or African descent. Roughly 20 percent of people from East Asia have the gene variant.

The researchers also tied the high risk gene sequence to a newly sequenced genome of Neanderthals from the Denisova Cave in Serbia. The gene, researchers postulate, could have developed due to interbreeding between Neanderthals and modern humans.

"To date, genetic studies have largely used samples from people of European or Asian ancestry, which makes it possible to miss culprit genes that are altered at different frequencies in other populations," co-author Jose Florez, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts told reporters.

"By expanding our search to include samples from Mexico and Latin America, we've found one of the strongest genetic risk factors discovered to date, which could illuminate new pathways to target with drugs and a deeper understanding of the disease."



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