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Tuesday, 1 February, 2000, 04:50 GMT
'Fat-free gene causes heart attacks'

insulin Gene mutation also causes insulin resistance

A gene mutation which strips layers of body fat could be to blame for heart disease and diabetes, say scientists.

The finding could have major implications for identifying and treating the conditions and has been welcomed by charities.

All this evidence suggests that LMNA is a critical gene in the human body and one that could have a profound influence on risk factors for major life-threatening diseases
Professor Richard Trembath
The research by scientists at the University of Leicester found that the gene mutation was present in all families with a history of the inherited condition partial lipodystrophy.

The condition develops during puberty and prevents the body from storing fat under the skin. Sufferers also have raised blood fat levels and insulin resistance, both of which are major causes of heart disease and diabetes.

The gene in which the mutation occurs is known as LMNA, which has previously been linked to serious heart and muscular problems.

Critical gene

Professor Richard Trembath, at the University of Leicester, said: "All this evidence suggests that LMNA is a critical gene in the human body and one that could have a profound influence on risk factors for major life-threatening diseases.

"The challenge now is to find out exactly how faults in this gene affect the body which should, in turn, tell us a great deal about how heart disease, diabetes and possibly other health problems arise."

His team, in collaboration with scientists in Germany and the Netherlands, screened blood samples from a large number of families affected by lipodystrophy, reports the journal Nature Genetics.

They believe the findings open the way to a simple screening test and provide a vital clue in the search for reasons for high blood fats and insulin resistance.

Professor Sir Charles George, medical director of the British Heart Foundation, which jointly funded the study with the British Diabetic Association (BDA), said the project "opens exciting new avenues of research".

Dr Moira Murphy, director of research at the BDA, added: "This fascinating research is still in its early stages, but we will wait with interest to see if it can help us unravel some of the clues as to what causes diabetes."

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See also:
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05 Jan 00 |  Health
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08 Dec 99 |  Health
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