Jan. 25, 2002
Volume XXXV, No. 4


Promotions and Tenure

Who's New


Do mothers pass on diabetes genes?


New research at the Health Science Center will seek to characterize the "thrifty genes" that may be associated with diabetes and to determine whether these genes are inherited from mothers.

Thrifty genes are thought to be responsible for conserving energy for survival during food scarcity and may be responsible for obesity in times of food abundance. Allied health researcher Dr. George Kudolo, associate professor of clinical laboratory sciences, believes these genes may be involved in the recent increase of type 2 diabetes in minority children.

The grant, titled "Mitochondrial Genome and Early Diabetes Intervention in Minority School-Age Children in San Antonio," was awarded $335,360 from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board through its Minority Health Research and Education Grant Program. Dr. Kudolo's was one of eight of 59 grants selected for funding.

The study's co-investigators are Dr. Linda Smith, professor of clinical laboratory sciences, and Dr. Shirlyn McKenzie, professor and chairman of clinical laboratory sciences. The grant is conducted in partnership with the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District and Dr. M-Al Salih, director of The DNA Reference Laboratory. The research will be conducted at the General Clinical Research Center at the Audie Murphy Division of the South Texas Veterans Health Care System.

Researchers will screen about 1,000 African-American and Mexican- American 8- to 10-year-olds in search of about 100 minority children with significant risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes mellitus, risk factors such as obesity and increased fasting insulin levels. They then will analyze the thrifty mitochondrial DNA from the children and their mothers.

After initial assessment, the children and their mothers will participate in an eight-part intervention program in which they will be taught about diabetes and its complications, the importance of exercise in delaying diabetes and how to select food to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The study will track the children for eight to 10 years, or until they complete high school.

"Through this study, we hope to understand how the assimilation of the two ethnic groups from two different anthropological backgrounds to the American culture of excessive food, and typically unhealthy fast food, have influenced those genes," Dr. Kudolo said.

"During the next couple of years we hope to show that having the diabetes gene or other biochemical diabetes risk factors is not a death warrant," Dr. Kudolo said. "If you take good care of yourself, you may not develop the disease."