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Ten new gene links bolster understanding of type 2 diabetes

20 August 2012

By Dr Zara Mahmoud

Appeared in BioNews 669

A large-scale statistical analysis of DNA from nearly 150,000 people of European descent has identified ten new regions of DNA that may help us understand the biological processes linked to glucose metabolism and insulin production in type 2 diabetes.

Around three million people in the UK are affected by diabetes, and of these 90 percent have type 2 diabetes. Both genetic and environmental factors contribute to the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, however, the known genetic variants are only thought to account for around ten percent of the genetic risk.

In order to develop a better understanding of the genes associated with this condition, scientists pooled together data from two existing case-controlled studies allowing them to compare DNA from 35,000 people with type 2 diabetes and 115,000 people without the condition. They used statistical analysis to identify trends in 197,000 SNPs looking for variations that were more common in type 2 patients.

The researchers initially found variations in eight new regions of the DNA previously not know to be associated with type 2 diabetes. They also found variations in two other regions not previously associated with European populations. Of these ten variations, two were affected by gender, with one variation being more common in women and the other in men. Each of these variations was associated with a seven to 13 percent risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This brings the total number of gene regions linked to type 2 diabetes to more than 60.

Although it was difficult to identify specific genes responsible for the condition, many of these variations were next to genes known to be involved in increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Professor Mark McCarthy, from the University of Oxford and a Wellcome Trust senior investigator on the study, said: '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'.

This study will help researchers decipher the biochemical pathways involved in type 2 diabetes. Professor McCarthy and his team are in the process of sequencing the entire genome of 1,400 patients and a control group of 1,400 people in the hope that this will help to pinpoint the exact location of genes involved in this condition.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
NHS Choices | 13 August 2012
 
Express | 13 August 2012
 
Nature Genetics | 12 August 2012
 
Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News | 13 August 2012
 
Wellcome Trust (press release) | 13 August 2012
 

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