10 new genes found that contribute to type 2 diabetes

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
10 new genes discovered for type 2 diabetes
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Researchers have found 10 new genes that contribute to type 2 diabetes that they say show some clear patterns and a fuller picture about the genetic and biological underpinnings of the disease that is a global health issue.

The finding is important say the investigators, because it brings type 2 diabetes treatment with new drugs into focus.

Principal investigator Professor Mark McCarthy of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford explained in a press release, '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.”

For the study, researchers analyzed DNA from almost 35,000 people with type 2 diabetes and about 115,000 people without diabetes.

University of Oxford, the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor researchers who were all involved in the study used a new DNA chip and explored known gene variations more deeply than they could in the past to find the 10 new diabetes genes.

Two of the newly identified genes had different effects in men and women. One variation slightly raised the chances of the disease for women and the other for men.

Professor Mark McCarthy says: '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. 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.

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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.”

McCarthy says now researchers have the ability to capture every gene variation associated with type 2 diabetes.

One example is understanding of whether beta cells in the pancreas can’t produce insulin when type 2 diabetes develops or if there are fewer cells available.

Another example is understanding how obesity contributes to type 2 diabetes. Understanding genetic variations can tell researchers how fat tissue communicates with liver and muscle where insulin resistance actually occurs.

Professor McCarthy also explains, 'We now have strong evidence that there is a long tail of further common gene variations beyond those we have identified so far. The 60 or so we know about will be the gene variants with strongest effects on risk of type 2 diabetes. But there are likely to be tens, hundreds, possibly even thousands more genes having smaller and smaller influences on development of the condition.'

The finding is exciting because it means a greater understanding of type 2 diabetes, which will ultimately lead to better drug treatments for the disease. Type 2 diabetes affects 90% of 364 million people with the disease globally, according to the Word Health Organization. There are now more than 60 genes and gene regions known to influence the risk a person will develop type 2 diabetes with the 10 new genes that have been discovered.

Source:
Nature Genetics
doi:10.1038/ng.2383
August 12, 2012

Resource:
WHO
Diabetes Fact Sheet

Image credit: Bing

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