Blessing In Disguise: Amish Mutation Claims To Protect Against Diabetes
Whether or not we inherit gene mutation via natural or scientific means, the society often perceives it as a horrible thing. The unfortunate reality is that we often see gene mutation as something weird, unnatural, and an awful thing. Ranging from people who inherit gene mutation like the albino to Genetically modified foods (GMO), we’re a bit reluctant to accept these changes knowing something not normal is happening to our body. And when it’s not normal, we often think that it’s bad for our health. After all, gene mutation often causes complications, right? It seems that’s not necessarily a bad thing nowadays, though as the Amish people living in Indiana have this rare genetic mutation that protects them from acquiring Type 2 Diabetes and possibly even extending their lifespan. How cool is that?
Anish People Seem to Be Resistant To Type 2 Diabetes and They Live Longer Than Average American People.
According to a new study published in Journal Science Advances last Wednesday, the genetic mutation of Amish people has the capability to delay the process of cellular aging and it could also lead to the discovery of new therapies to treat chronic diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes. The mutation affects a mysterious protein called plasminogen activator inhibitor-1, or PAI-1, which is known for its role in blood clotting. Unfortunately, the Amish people had unusually low levels of PAI-1, making them vulnerable to cuts and wounds since their blood doesn’t have the ability to clot the wounds. If they end up getting wounded, they could bleed for a longer period of time. Their genetic disorder is quite similar to that of a hemophiliac.
This genetic mutation disorder was first identified in 1991, in Berne, Indiana. There lived secluded Amish community that was exposed to this genetic mutation. Dr. Douglas Vaughan, a cardiologist at Northwestern medical school, has suspected that PAI-1 plays an important role not only in blood clotting but also in aging. Dr. Vaughan also reiterated that he first noticed the mutation’s capability in a scientific experiment where mice, which had been genetically modified, produce high levels of PAI-1 age quickly, their hair going bald and they even suffer a heart attack in such a young age. He also theorizes that people who have high levels of PAI-1 protein are susceptible to diabetes and other metabolic problems that may lead to cardiovascular diseases.
Dr. Vaughan Reached Out to the Community to Study the Amish People and How the Genetic Mutation Affects Them
Dr. Vaughan conducted the study with a team of 40 researchers who came with him to the town. They first spent two days of extensive tests on 177 members of the said secluded community. They scanned their birth and death records in order to trace and monitor their genetic histories. They drew blood, did a series of ultrasound tests for the heart in order to monitor their cardiopulmonary function.
“Some of the young men we collected blood from fainted because they had never had a needle stick in their life,” said Dr. Vaughan, who is chairman of medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “These people live sort of an 18th century lifestyle and generally don’t take advantage of modern medicine. But they were so gracious and courteous and cooperative.”
The discovery of Dr. Vaughan’s study was striking and phenomenal. They found out that the Amish people live until the age of 85, about a decade longer than that of average American mortality rate. The rate of Amish people infected with Type 2 Diabetes only spans around 7% percent of their population. With the carriers of the said mutation, however, they have 0% probability of acquiring Type 2 Diabetes despite having the same lifestyle and eating the same diet regimen.
“Diabetes is something that develops more as we age,” Dr. Vaughan said. “This is a terrific indicator that the mutation actually protected them from a metabolic consequence of aging.”
A Molecular Biologist, Who’s an Expert in Aging in Mayo Clinic, Said the Study was Impressive and It Yields Intriguing Yet Enlightening Results
Jan M. van Deursen, a molecular biologist in Mayo Clinic, is in full optimism that the discovery of the said study will pave the way to discover new treatments for Type 2 Diabetes and increase our longevity. The researchers will try to recreate the effects of mutation and test it for those obese patients with insulin resistance.
“I think it’s nice work, you don’t see these types of studies that often,” he said. “The Amish are quite reserved, and it’s not that easy to get them to participate in a study like this. My hat’s off to them and to the researchers.”
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