An international collaboration of scientists from Europe and the US has identified six new genes which play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes, extending the total number of genes implicated in common forms of the disease to sixteen.
The findings provide valuable new insights into the mechanisms responsible for the control of sugar levels in the blood and how malfunctions in this mechanism can result in type 2 diabetes. The research, of which the major UK funders were the Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council, Diabetes UK and the EU, may lead to new ways of treating and preventing diabetes.
The main feature of type 2 diabetes is a sustained abnormal elevation of blood sugar levels. This results from a failure of the systems (involving the production of insulin from the pancreas) which usually keep those levels within tight limits. Exposure to high levels of glucose over years can result in serious damage to the heart, kidneys and other major organs. There are currently over two million people with diabetes in the UK and as many as 750,000 others who have the condition but are unaware.
Ninety researchers from over 40 centres analysed genetic data gathered from over 70,000 people in search of differences in our genetic code that make some people more susceptible than others to type 2 diabetes. Previous work from these groups and others had identified ten genes contributing to type 2 diabetes risk, to which the new findings, published online today in the journal Nature Genetics, add a further six new genes.
None of the genes we have found was previously on the radar screen of diabetes researchers, says Professor Mark McCarthy from the University of Oxford, one of the authors of the paper. Each of these genes therefore provides new clues to the processes that go wrong when diabetes develops, and each provides an opportunity for the generation of new approaches for treating or preventing this condition.
|Contact: Craig Brierley|