Monogenic Diabetes: Do You Have a Genetic Predisposition to be Diabetic?


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Monogenic diabetes can sometimes look like type 2 diabetes. Image by Mikael Häggström

Diabetes is the leading cause of heart disease and stroke and is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States – do you have a genetic predisposition to diabetes?

In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 25.8 million people in the United States had diabetes, 7 million of whom were undiagnosed. With this many people with diabetes, researchers are enrolling patients into clinical trials to figure out what can be done to stop this disease.

One clinical trial that is enrolling participants is through the University of Chicago Medicine Kovler Diabetes Center. The researchers are looking at patients who may have a genetic predisposition to diabetes, called monogenic diabetes.

Monogenic Diabetes: Genetic Disorder

To best explain what monogenic diabetes is and how it differs from type 1 and type 2 diabetes, Decoded Science interviewed Dr. Rochelle Naylor, a Pediatric Endocrinologist and one of the physicians with the Monogenic Diabetes Registry. Dr. Naylor explained:

“Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder, and the body loses tolerance to the beta cells in the pancreas that make insulin.  It’s a polygenic disorder, with 50% of people having a problem. There are a number of genes that explain type 2 diabetes, and environment plays a role here as well. In monogenic diabetes – a single gene causes diabetes. There are more than 20 genes that can cause diabetes if they carry a gene mutation. In some forms, a single gene from one parent can cause diabetes.”

Some forms of monogenic diabetes have no symptoms. Some cases are very mild and may go undetected for years. And yet other forms have serious effects on blood sugar and require the person to take insulin injections and other forms of treatment.

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