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Faulty body clock linked to diabetes

December 8, 2008
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NEW YORK - Flaws in the body's system for regulating sleep also are associated with diabetes, a genetic link suggests, and may provide new clues for how to treat the disease, researchers say.

Scientists discovered that a variant in the gene M1NR1B, which controls one of the body's melatonin receptors, boosts the likelihood of elevated blood sugar and Type 2 diabetes. The findings, from an international research group, were released yesterday by the journal Nature Genetics.

Previous studies have shown an association between sleep disorders and health problems such as diabetes and obesity. The latest findings provide genetic evidence of the connection, reinforce the importance of sleep in health, and may point to future treatment options, said Phyllis Zee, the director of Northwestern University's sleep disorders center.

"If these relationships hold true in population-based studies, then you want to know if this will work as a target for therapy, if it can be part of a potential treatment," Zee said. She wasn't involved in either study.

Levels of the hormone insulin, which controls blood sugar, vary with the internal clock, and are at their lowest during the night, according to a statement that accompanied the study. The studies suggest that melatonin may have direct effects on insulin secretion, the statement said.

There were 24 million cases of diabetes in America in 2007.

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