Researchers in London may have uncovered a key to understanding the role genetics plays in diabetes.

Dr. David Hill, the scientific director of the Lawson Research Institute, is providing clues about diabetes and heredity.

“We know there are genes involved in the risk of diabetes, but before, no one had really looked at the genes that control energy usage in the insulin producing cells,” he says.

Insulin is the hormone that keeps blood sugar levels in check and before it's released, a cellular digestive process takes place.

“All diabetes is a type of availability of insulin and the number of cells that generate insulin is going to be determinants of your ability to make enough insulin. So this could underlay Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes."

For a Lawson study, researchers were able to slow down the process that metabolizes blood sugar in genetically engineered mice. When the natural process was disrupted, a couple of things happened both expected and unexpected.

“We mutated one of the key genes that is responsible for providing the energy so the insulin doesn't have the energy driving it to get out of the cell,” Hill says.

 “When we did that we not only saw changes in the release of insulin, we also saw a change in the number of cells that make insulin."

It's hoped the research could lead to new avenues of treating, and possibly preventing, diabetes.

“Because there may be novel drugs that enhance the ability of insulin-producing cells to mobilize energy and release insulin,” Hill says.