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Genes Providing Link Between Lower Birth Weight and Type 2 Diabetes are Discovered

According to Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 351,974 low birth weight babies are born in the United States every year. Babies weighing less than 1,500 grams at the time of birth are called low weight babies. As they get very less time to grow inside their mother’s womb, these babies are at higher risks of developing several health complications.

Complications of Low Birth Weight: Some of these complication are low oxygen levels at birth, inability to maintain body temperature, difficulty feeding and gaining weight, infection, neurological problems like bleeding inside the brain, breathing problems such as respiratory distress syndrome, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) which is a serious intestinal disease prevalent in premature babies.

Initial Research: In the later years of their life, these babies are found to be at higher risks of developing Type 2 diabetes. Initial research findings on this topic were published by the researchers from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, on July 10,2009, in the online version of the journal Diabetes.

Knowledge Gained from the Research: The researchers wanted to confirm the theory of Fetal insulin hypothesis. According to this theory, underproduction of insulin during prenatal period causes lower birth weight in babies. The gene responsible for causing this lower birth weight was proposed to cause development of Type 2 diabetes in later years. Previous studies carried out by European researchers on diabetes even identified that gene as CDKALI. A research study was carried out on 5,700 Caucasian children. The researchers compared the birth weight of these babies with changes in 20 genetic locations. The association between the gene CDKALI, lower birth weight and Type 2 diabetes got confirmed at the end of the study. The researchers however failed to understand the mechanism by which this gene worked.

Recent Findings: In a recent development (April 2010), an international team of researchers discovered a new fact. They found that one out of the two genetic regions which influence birth weight, is associated with Type 2 Diabetes disease. A gene called ADCY5 is identified as increasing the risks of type 2 diabetes by 25 percent in adulthood, for lower weight babies. The results of the findings of this research are published in the Journal Nature Genetics.

These increasing evidences of the role of genes is helping the researchers to target their efforts towards the prevention of this disease.

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