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Aurora magazine

An ancient mutation protects us from diabetes

Researchers at University College London have identified a mutation as old as fire. According to the discovery, this genetic variant could protect against hyperglycemia and diabetes, helping to prevent these diseases.

The discovery was made as scientists studied the CLTCL1 gene, which deals with removing excess sugar from the blood. Our body needs sugar to supply energy to the brain and the rest of the organs. When levels rise too much, however, pathologies such as type 2 diabetes can occur. In these cases, the sugar in circulation increases exponentially and the body is no longer able to remove it from the flow.

About 50% of the world population has a changed version of CLTCL1, which improves their performance. For these individuals, eliminating excess sugar is easier and therefore they are less at risk of diabetes. It may be that the mutation arose when humans began to cook. With the arrival of the kitchen, the sugars introduced into the blood have increased and it has become necessary to remove them.

The phenomenon could even have stimulated the development of the human brain. The oldest form of the gene carried glucose into the muscle and fat, so sugar levels remained high. The increase in sugar in the tissues of the organs could have stimulated the development of the brain, thanks to the greater supply of energy. Today, instead, there are other versions of the mutation, more in line with the large amounts of carbohydrates consumed today.