With over 60 genes and gene regions now linked to type 2 diabetes, the researchers were able to find patterns in the types of genes implicated in the disease. Although each individual gene variant has only a small influence on people's overall risk of diabetes, the types of genes involved are giving new insight into the biology behind diabetes.
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. 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.'
While gene association studies have been successful in finding DNA regions that can be reliably linked to type 2 diabetes, it can be hard to tie down which gene and what exact DNA change is responsible.
Professor McCarthy and colleagues' next step is to get complete information about genetic changes driving type 2 diabetes by sequencing people's DNA in full.
He is currently leading a study from Oxford University that, with collaborators in the US and Europe, has sequenced the entire genomes of 1400 people with diabetes and 1400 people without. 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,' says Professor McCarthy, a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator. 'Not only will we be able to look for signals we've so far
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