Breast cancer gene linked to diabetes

A gene that is associated with breast cancer risk plays a significant role in fat storage and insulin response, according to new research from the University of Maryland.

BRCA1 is linked to metabolic function of skeletal muscle, the study reveals, suggesting that certain mutations in the gene could be linked to increased risk for conditions like obesity and type 2 diabetes.

"Without BRCA1, muscle cells store excess fat and start to look diabetic," said Dr. Espen Spangenburg, associate professor of kinesiology at UM. "We believe that the significance of the BRCA1 gene goes well beyond breast cancer risk."

Research evidences BRCA1's protective role

The research team found that BRCA1 can be found in both animal and human skeletal muscle, and the protein produced by this gene binds with another protein that plays a critical role in muscle cell fat metabolism.

To test how cells would react without BRCA1, the team "knocked out" the gene so that it was no longer expressed in the muscle cells. Results showed that this created diseased-looking muscle cells, increased fat storage, and decreased insulin signaling - key risk factors for metabolic disease.

"Our findings make it clear that BRCA1 plays a protective role against the development of metabolic disease," Spangenburg said. "This gene needs to be there, and should be considered a target to consider in the treatment of type 2 diabetes and/or obesity."

The research is published in the Journal of Lipid Research.

Source: University of Maryland

Photo credit: antpkr/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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