The discovery of seven new
regions of DNA linked to type 2 diabetes could lead to new ways of thinking
about diabetes and new treatments for the disease, researchers suggest.
The findings were among the
results of the largest study to date on the genetics of diabetes, which
compiled genetic information on people from four different ethnic groups, the
study authors said.
The study involved more
than 48 000 diabetes patients and nearly 140 000 people who did not have the
disease. By examining more than 3 million DNA variants, the investigators were
able to pinpoint regions that have even a small effect on people's risk for
type 2 diabetes.
Two of the DNA regions
identified in the study are near genes that show a strong association with high
levels of insulin and blood sugar. This sheds light on how basic processes in
the body are involved in the risk for type 2 diabetes, the researchers said.
New ways of thinking about diabetes
"Although the genetic
effects may be small, each signal tells us something new about the biology of
the disease," study first author Dr Anubha Mahajan, of Oxford University
in England, said in a university news release.
"These findings may
lead us to new ways of thinking about the disease, with the aim ultimately of
developing novel therapies to treat and prevent diabetes," Mahajan said.
"There's every reason to expect that drugs acting on these biological
processes would have a far larger impact on an individual's diabetes than the
genetic effects we have discovered."
The research was conducted
by an international group of scientists from 20 countries on four continents.
The scientists said their study included Hispanic and Asian people – not just
those with European backgrounds. As more genetic information on people from
South Asia and Africa becomes available, it will be possible to more closely
examine the genes linked to type 2 diabetes, they said.
Mark McCarthy, the study's
senior investigator, said, "One of the striking features of these data is
how much of the genetic variation that influences diabetes is shared between
major ethnic groups."
"This has allowed us
to combine data from more than 50 studies from across the globe to discover new
genetic regions affecting risk of diabetes," McCarthy, of Oxford's
Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, said in the news release.
"The overlap in
signals between populations of European, Asian and Hispanic origin argues that
the risk regions we have found to date do not explain the clear differences in
the patterns of diabetes between those groups," McCarthy said.
Findings should apply to other diseases
Principal investigator Dr
Andrew Morris, also from the Wellcome Trust, said the findings should apply to
other common diseases as well.
"By combining genetic
data from different ethnic groups, we would also expect to be able to identify
new DNA variants influencing risk of heart disease and some forms of cancer,
for example, which are shared across ethnic groups," Morris said in the
news release. "It has the potential to have a major impact on global
The report was published in
the online edition of the journal Nature Genetics.
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