Meigs and his colleagues examined 18 gene mutations associated with type 2 diabetes in 2,377 people participating in the Framingham Offspring Study, a three-decade-long study. Each gene conferred a 5 percent to 37 percent increased risk of developing diabetes, the researchers said.
Screening for these genes did predict who would develop diabetes, but not significantly better than a regular doctor's examination.
The authors of the second study looked at 16 gene variants associated with type 2 diabetes in 16,061 Swedish and 2,770 Finnish individuals. Again, this genetic screening performed only slightly better than conventional methods in predicting who would get the disease. But the ability of the genetic risk factors to predict future diabetes got better the longer the study participants were followed, the researchers said.
The researchers, from Lund University in Malmo, Sweden, suggested that this type of screening could help narrow the number of people needed in trials looking at prevention of type 2 diabetes.
"If we don't hit a wall with science in terms of funding [for genetic screening], this means that in 100 years we might have something to go with," said Dr. Stuart Weiss, a clinical assistant professor of medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City.
"It's wonderful that science is progressing, but this is not all that clinically useful," he added. "It looks like family history, high triglycerides [blood fats], and obesity together put you at very high risk and it's been clear to many people out there that this has been the case for quite a long time. Highlighting this is a good thing because we can talk to patients about it. The sooner we intervene and the more aggressive we are early on with diabetes, the better off we'll be."
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