Horizons in Diabetes and Metabolism

Changing the Face of Diabetic Care with Haptoglobin Genotype Selection and Vitamin E

Nina S. Levy and Andrew P. Levy


Research over the past 10 years in our laboratory has led to two major findings. The first is that haptoglobin (Hp) genotype can predict the risk of developing vascular complications in individuals with diabetes mellitus (DM), and the second, more far-reaching discovery, is that vitamin E treatment can significantly reduce vascular complications in individuals with DM and the Hp 2-2 genotype. The former finding has been well documented in numerous studies which included over 50,000 patients of diverse geographical and ethnic backgrounds. The latter discovery is more recent and less well accepted by the medical community due to confounding reports over the past 30 years regarding the efficacy of vitamin E treatment for vascular disease. We propose that the benefit of vitamin E treatment was not obvious in earlier studies due to the absence of any genetic basis for patient selection. Our studies dividing DM individuals into vitamin E treatment subgroups based on Hp genotype show a clear benefit for individuals of the Hp 2-2 genotype, while patients carrying the other two Hp genotypes are not affected or may be adversely affected by receiving vitamin E. These findings may explain the overall lack of benefit seen in previous vitamin E studies and emphasize the importance of carefully selecting which patients should receive vitamin E therapy. The pharmacogenomic paradigm discussed in this review potentially could result in a dramatic improvement in the health of millions of individuals worldwide using a treatment that is both accessible and affordable to all.

Rambam Maimonides Med J 2011;2(2):e0047