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New Clues to How KLF14 Gene Affects Women's Diabetes Risk

Researchers found variants determine where body fat is stored, regulation of fat cells


WEDNESDAY, Oct. 21, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- The gene KLF14 is associated with the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and appears to regulate hundreds of other genes active in fat cells, and it changes the structure and function of those cells, according to findings presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics, held from Oct. 6 to 10 in Baltimore.

Recent research has shown that a variant in the KLF14 gene is associated with the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It also seems to be a master regulator of how and where a woman's body stores fat: Women with one particular allele of the gene variant tend to have slimmer hips, while women with another are more pear-shaped. The researchers are currently exploring why the variant only seems to affect women.

"Most genes that have been associated with type 2 diabetes are related to the pancreas," lead researcher Kerrin Small, Ph.D., a genomics researcher at King's College London, told HealthDay. "What's different about the KLF14 gene is that it's expressed in fat tissue." That suggests that variations in the gene affect people's sensitivity to insulin, Small explained.

Obesity is a key risk factor for type 2 diabetes, but body fat distribution is also important: People who carry their weight around the middle are particularly at risk of diabetes, as well as heart disease. "Differences in KLF14 variants do not affect overall body weight," Small pointed out. "They're only related to body fat distribution."

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