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Possible Link Found Between Diabetes and Human Circadian Rhythms
By Daniel H. Rasolt
Posted: Sunday, January 18, 2009
(Defeat Diabetes® News) -- A new
gene variant has been discovered that raises blood glucose levels through
melatonin secretion. This finding possibly establishes a previously unknown link
between human circadian rhythms (sleep-wake cycles, regulated by melatonin), and
The study consisted of a meta-analyses, including data from 13
different studies and over 82,000 participants (18,000 with diabetes). The goal
of the study was to search for gene variants within these individuals that have
the effect of raising blood glucose levels, and increasing the risk for the
development of type 2 diabetes. These discovered gene variants would also have
the ability of pinpointing the mechanisms by which healthy individuals regulate
blood glucose levels, by demonstrating which genes must necessarily function
properly to limit diabetic risk.
A variant of the gene MTNR1B, which
resides within insulin-producing cells, was identified by researchers as raising
blood glucose levels and increasing diabetic risk. MTNR1B is also known to be a
receptor for melatonin, and the gene variant of MTNR1B is thought to interfere
with insulin production due to melatonin. Specifically, MTNR1B "encodes one of
the two known melatonin receptors. It is assumed that this receptor inhibits the
release of insulin via the neural hormone melatonin."
thought to be the primary regulator of sleep-wake cycles in human beings.
Nighttime melatonin levels are significantly higher than daytime levels,
accounting for the well-established circadian rhythm present in humans. On the
other hand, insulin levels are typically much lower at night than in the day.
Previously, the fact that insulin levels are low at night was thought to
be unrelated to melatonin levels being high. However, armed with the new
knowledge that the gene variant of MTNR1B raises blood glucose levels,
researchers are speculating that a link between melatonin levels (circadian
rhythms) and insulin production exists, which when irregular, can lead to
diabetes. The hope is that further establishment and investigation into this
connection will lead to novel treatments for diabetes, perhaps focused upon
melatonin production, instead of direct insulin administration.
Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Winkler, Sven. Illig, Thomas. Whichman, Erich. Nature Genetics news release. January 2009.
Daniel H. Rasolt writes for Defeat Diabetes® News. Read more of his original content articles.
Copyright © 2009 Defeat Diabetes Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved.
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