Scientists Probe Genetic Links To Diabetes

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Ten further DNA "hotspots" linked to the most common form of diabetes have been uncovered by scientists, bringing the total to more than 60.

International experts probed deeper than ever into the genetic differences between individuals that affect the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Lead investigator Professor Mark McCarthy, from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at Oxford University, said: "The 10 gene regions we have shown to be associated with Type 2 diabetes are taking us nearer a biological understanding of the disease.

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"It is hard to come up with new drugs for diabetes without first having an understanding of which biological processes in the body to target. This work is taking us closer to that goal."

Almost three million people in the UK are affected by diabetes and a further 850,000 may be undiagnosed. Ninety per cent of those affected have the Type 2 version of the disease, which is linked to obesity and lifestyle.

Diabetes occurs when the body is no longer able to control the level of sugar in the blood. Left untreated, it can cause a host of health problems including heart disease, stroke, nerve damage and blindness.

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The scientists analysed DNA from almost 35,000 people with Type 2 diabetes and 115,000 healthy individuals. They identified 10 new gene regions where DNA changes could be reliably linked to risk of the disease.

Two of these were separately associated with greater diabetes risk in men and women.

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The research is published in the journal Nature Genetics.

Professor McCarthy added: "By looking at all 60 or so gene regions together we can look for signatures of the type of genes that influence the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

diabetes genetics link

"We see genes involved in controlling the process of cell growth, division and ageing, particularly those that are active in the pancreas where insulin is produced. We see genes involved in pathways through which the body's fat cells can influence biological processes elsewhere in the body. And we see a set of transcription factor genes - genes that help control what other genes are active."

ALSO READ: He is currently leading another international study that has mapped the entire genetic codes of 2,800 people with and without diabetes. First results will be available next year.

"Now we have the ability to do a complete job, capturing all genetic variation linked to type 2 diabetes," said the professor. "Not only will we be able to look for signals we've so far missed, but we will also be able to pinpoint which individual DNA change is responsible. These genome sequencing studies will really help us push forward towards a more complete biological understanding of diabetes."