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Ngāti Porou geneticist takes on Type 2 diabetes

A young Ngāti Porou geneticist is using DNA from her own people to fight Type 2 diabetes.

Māori suffer from the condition at nearly twice the rate as non-Māori.

Twenty-two-year-old Anezka Hoskin is part of a team at Otago University researching whether there is a gene that makes Māori and Pasifika people more prone to Type 2, or adult onset, diabetes.

The team previously found two genotypes that link Māori and Pasifika people with gout, which may account for their high prevalence of gout.

Now they want to know whether there is a similar genetic link between Māori and Type 2 diabetes.

The research is part of a decade-long partnership with Ngāti Porou Hauora and much of the DNA comes from Ngāti Porou people who donate a blood sample.

Anezka says it's a huge privilege and a big responsibility to handle the tapu specimens from her own iwi, including her own whānau.

The lab practices tikanga Māori when handling and disposing of Māori DNA samples.

Anezka’s interest in genetics began when her sister was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in childhood.  Type 1 diabetes is known to be genetic while Type 2 diabetes is often linked with obesity and diet.

Anezka hopes that if they do find a genetic link to Type 2 diabetes it will help remove the blame and shame that people often feel.

She believes feeling whakamā often prevents people from seeking treatment.

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