Arsenic May Raise Diabetes Risk for Males

Chronic exposure to arsenic, often through contaminated groundwater, has been associated with Type 2 diabetes in humans, and there are new clues that males may be more susceptible to the disease when exposed.

A new Cornell University study — using lab mice genetically modified with a human gene to shed light on the potential link — revealed that while the male mice exposed to arsenic in drinking water developed diabetes, the female mice did not.

These results would not have been possible without using a mouse model engineered to express a human enzyme for metabolizing arsenic, since normal mice process arsenic much more efficiently than humans and require very high levels of exposure before they become diabetic.

Endemic levels of arsenic above safe limits in both Bangladesh and Mexico led to studies that showed an association between higher levels of arsenic exposure and Type 2 diabetes.

Though these studies had very small sample sizes, they offered clues for further research.

Mice in the study were exposed for a month to doses of arsenic in drinking water that were nonlethal but sufficient to potentially promote Type 2 diabetes. The researchers then examined liver and white adipose tissues that are implicated in diabetes.

In the humanized male mice alone, they found increased expression in genes related to insulin resistance.

Also, in both liver and white adipose tissues of the humanized male mice, they identified a biomarker called miR-34a, which is highly associated with insulin resistance in Type 2 diabetes and other metabolic diseases.


Jenna Todero, Christelle Douillet, Alexandria J. Shumway, Beverly H. Koller, Matt Kanke, Daryl J. Phuong, Miroslav Stýblo, Praveen Sethupathy. Molecular and Metabolic Analysis of Arsenic-Exposed Humanized AS3MT Mice. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2023; 131 (12) DOI: 10.1289/EHP12785

Cornell University. (2024, January 9). Arsenic may raise diabetes risk for males. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 9, 2024 from
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