Community with low diabetes has more risk gene: study

The genetic profiling of the Raika community conducted by AIIMS and ICMR

Written by Pritha Chatterjee | New Delhi | Published: January 16, 2012 2:56 am

A study on the apparent diabetes resistance of a tribal community in Rajasthan has found that they have the highest occurrence of the HLA gene,which makes the body predisposed to diabetes,in India,and possibly the world.

The genetic profiling of the Raika community — a nomadic camel rearing tribal group — conducted by AIIMS and ICMR from 2006-2009,found the average frequency of the HLA gene to be 57.5 per cent in the community as compared to 14.5 per cent for the rest of the country.

“To the best of our knowledge,Raika is the only population in the world that has such a high frequency of DRB1 03 and associated HLA-A and B genes that confer risk of Type 1 diabetes in India and yet has no or very low incidence of diabetes in them,” says the report.

“Contrary to the prediction of a possible lack or low occurrence of HLA linked susceptibility genes in this population,the frequency of diabetes favouring gene was found to be significantly higher than in other Indian communities,” said Dr N K Mehra,HoD,Transplant Immunology & Immunogenetics,AIIMS,who headed the study.

Significantly,the frequency of the gene in non-Raika communities living in the region was also found to be double the Indian average at 31 per cent. This has led researchers to believe that there could be a possible environmental reason behind the significantly low incidence of diabetes in the region.

“Since the genetic profiles of other communities in the region appear to be similar,future research needs to examine environmental stimuli that could be preventing the onset of the disease in these people,” said Dr Mehra. “It has been suggested that camel milk,with its high concentration of insulin,could have a role in controlling diabetes,” he added.

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