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Researchers Identify New Genetic Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes

er people and even children are developing the disease, which is characterized by the resistance of target tissues to respond to insulin and a gradual failure of insulin-secreting cells in the pancreas.

In addition to lifestyle factors like obesity, poor diet and lack of exercise, doctors have long known that heredity plays a significant role in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. People who have a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes face a 3.5-times greater risk than people without a family history of the disease. However, researchers have only recently begun to zero in on particular genetic variants that increase or decrease susceptibility to the disease.

To make their discoveries, researchers used a relatively new, comprehensive strategy known as a genome-wide association study. "Genome-wide association studies offer a powerful way to uncover the genetic variations that contribute to diabetes, as well as other common conditions, such as asthma, arthritis, heart disease, cancer and mental illnesses," Dr. Boehnke said. "Once susceptibility genes are identified, researchers then can use this information to develop better approaches to detecting, treating and preventing disease."

To conduct a genome-wide association study, researchers use two groups of participants: a large group of people with the disease being studied and a large group of otherwise similar people without the disease. Utilizing DNA purified from blood or cells, researchers quickly survey each participant's complete set of DNA, or genome, for strategically selected markers of genetic variation.

If certain genetic variations are found more frequently in people with the disease compared to healthy people, the variations are said to be associated with the disease. The associated genetic variations can serve as a strong pointer to the region of the genome where the genetic risk factor resides. However, the first variants detected may not themselves d
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