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Researchers Found Gene Tied to Raising Heart Disease Risk in Diabetics

Update Date: Aug 28, 2013 09:51 AM EDT

People with chronic illnesses, such as hypertension, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, have a greater risk of developing other health conditions such as heart disease. Due to the fact that health complications are often linked together, it is important to take preventative measures in order to reduce one's risk of developing health problems. However, for some people, a genetic factor might be at play that makes prevention more difficult. In a new study, researchers reported that people with type 2 diabetes might have an increased risk of heart disease if they carry a particular kind of gene.

Based on previous research, people with type 2 diabetes already have a four times greater risk of heart disease in comparison to people without this health condition. In this study, the research team from the Harvard School of Public Health and Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, MA, looked into the relationship between type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The researcher examined data of over 4,100 people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Of this sample set, around a third of them had heart disease. The researchers tested over 2.5 million genetic variants and discovered that one particular gene variant near the GLUL gene was associated to a roughly 36 percent increased risk for heart disease.

"This is a very intriguing finding because this variant was not found in previous genome-wide association studies in the general population," the lead author, Dr. Lu Qi said according to HealthDay. Qi is an assistant professor in the department of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health. Qi is also an assistant professor at the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital. "This means that the genetic risk factors for cardiovascular disease may be different among those with and without diabetes."

The researchers hope that this new finding could make better treatments and preventative measures for people with diabetes.

"Understanding the mechanism of the gene involved could provide the key to creating drugs that might be protective against [coronary heart disease] in diabetics," Dr. Tara Narula, an associate director of the cardiac care unit at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said. She was not a part of the study. "Overall, this study expands our current knowledge base and offers hope of designer therapies and treatment plans that could at least ease the [cardiovascular disease] burden of diabetics: a population that already suffers tremendously from the toll diabetes takes on multiple other organ systems in the body."

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)

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