The Intertwined Role of Genetics and the Environment in the Pathogenesis of Type II Diabetes

Alexandra Nevin, BSc

Type II diabetes is a complicated, multifactorial disease process characterized by a relative insulin insensitivity leading to prolonged hyperglycemia. In comparison with type I diabetes, which is primarily due to the auto-immune-mediated destruction of the insulin producing beta cells of the pancreas, type II diabetes is the more predominant, generally adult- onset form, which predisposes individuals to pathological complications, and is more amenable to lifestyle modifications.

Senior citizens are the population most susceptible to type II diabetes. The Canadian Heart Health Survey reported that 13.2% of men and 12.0% of women between the ages of 65 and 74 have diabetes. In light of the aging population in Canada, researchers continue to investigate the intertwined role of genetics and the environment in the pathogenesis of type II diabetes in an effort to better understand and, ideally, to devise true preventative therapy measures to combat the disease.

Two fundamental defects underlie the pathogenesis of type II diabetes. The primary problem is the development of insulin resistance. In an attempt to compensate for the increased blood glucose load, a period of relative maladaptive hyperinsulinemia occurs.