Environment Increases Diabetes Risk More Than Genes

It is generally known that people with diabetes have the disease either because it runs in their family, or because of an unhealthy diet made up of fatty foods. A new study just released by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine has put new and greater emphasis on the environmental causes of diabetes, such as pesticides and other chemicals. By using a novel approach to researching the association of environmental factors and diabetes, scientist were able to eliminate some of the ambiguity that has existed in previous studies where this same relationship was researched. This new approach used the same techniques initially developed to identify the numerous sections of DNA throughout the genome that could contribute to disease development. “This approach catapults us from being forced to ask very simple, directed questions about environment and disease into a new realm in which we can look at many, many variables simultaneously and without bias,” said Atul Butte, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pediatric cancer biology, who is also director of the Center for Pediatric Bioinformatics at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. “In the future, we’ll be able to analyze the effect of genes and environment together, to find, perhaps, that a specific gene increases the risk of a disease only if the person is also drinking polluted well water.” “Studying relationships between a person’s environment and their disease burden in this manner is going to be far more impactful,” explained Butte. “We can now imagine what it might be to look at everything in the environment, in the same way that we’ve been doing with the genome for the past decade. Imagine one day wearing a chip on your clothing that assesses your exposure to hundreds or thousands of environmental toxins. You could bring that in to your annual physical and you and your doctor could incorporate the information into discussions about disease risk and prevention.” To see the full report click here.

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