New research on the genetics of diabetes could help women get to know their risk of developing gestational diabetes before getting pregnant.
And it would lead to measures being taken to protect the health of the offspring. Gestational diabetes affects 18 percent of pregnancies but usually disappears when a pregnancy is over. Babies born to women with gestational diabetes are typically larger at birth, which can lead to complications during delivery.
They are at an increased risk of developing metabolic diseases, like diabetes, in childhood and adulthood.
Researchers found variants in two genes - HKDC1 and BACE2 - that were associated with measures of glucose and insulin levels of pregnant women but not associated with these measures in the rest of the population, including people with type 2 diabetes.
First author M. Geoffrey Hayes, an assistant professor of medicine-endocrinology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and assistant professor of anthropology at Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, said that with additional study and verification of these and other risk genes, we could one day have genetic risk profiles to identify individuals at elevated risk for developing gestational diabetes.
The findings suggest that the roles of the gene HKDC1 in glucose metabolism and BACE2 in insulin secretion are more important during pregnancy versus the non-pregnant state - across all ethnicities studied.
Researchers used DNA and phenotype data of more than 4,000 participants of four different ancestry backgrounds (Hispanic, Thai, Afro-Caribbean and European) from the Hyperglycemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes (HAPO) study.
This study's findings could one day help pinpoint quantitative genetic traits that predict which women may develop gestational diabetes.
William L. Lowe, Jr., M.D., professor of medicine-endocrinology at Feinberg and senior author of the study, said that by knowing your risk when going into a pregnancy or early on during pregnancy, you might be screened for evidence of high glucose levels test sooner rather than later and begin preventive measures to protect the health of your offspring.
The findings have been published in Diabetes, a journal of the American Diabetes Association.