Researchers have discovered a new protein which may be a genetic predictor for whether a pregnant woman develops high blood sugar levels.
HKDC1 protein
Scientists have long been studying four hexokinases – catalysts for energy production – and how they instigate the body’s process of getting energy from food.
This has led to research investigating how medications could be used to interfere with these enzymes to help manage diabetes and other metabolic diseases. The discovery of HKDC1 is seen as a fifth player in the hexokinase team.
Scientists at Duke and Northwestern Universities, United States report the HKDC1 protein appears during pregnancy, and women with less of it cannot metabolise glucose as well.
Hyperglycemia during pregnancy shares some of the long-term health effects as gestational diabetes, and can contribute to obesity and diabetes in children.
Surprising discovery
Christopher Newgard, Ph.D, director of the Duke Molecular Physiology Institute, and an author of the paper revealed that an undiscovered enzyme hiding in the human genome is a shocking revelation.
“It’s ancient history in the field of carbohydrate biochemistry that there were four members of the family. Something like 40 years goes by, and then here comes this cowboy, showing up late to the party,” said Newgard.
Senior author of the study Tim Reddy added: “The discovery of this gene creates a path forward to better predicting a woman’s risk. This new hexokinase could also give us more information on how to inhibit or activate it, and anything we can to do disrupt the cycle would be an important advance to stem the epidemic of diabetes we see today.”
The researchers now hope to develop a test from these findings that indicate the potential risk of hyperglycemia developing in pregnant women.

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