Scientists have discovered nine genes linked to diabetes, a key breakthrough which they claim could soon pave the way for new treatment against the disease which affects more than 220 million people worldwide.

A team from 174 research centres around the world, who studied the genes and blood glucose level of more than 120,000 volunteers, has identified the nine genes which control the body’s response to glucose in the blood.

Type 2 Diabetes occurs when the tissues of the body become resistant to the effects of insulin, needed to regulate glucose. The sufferers may control the disease with diet and exercise but often have to take insulin.

“This is an incredibly important finding. The discovery of these new genes influencing blood-sugar levels is the first step on the important journey to developing new therapies for diabetes.

“It opens up a whole new area of research to find which proteins are ‘druggable’ Genetics is like a can-opener: it allows us to get inside and understand what’s going on,” Jim Wilson of Edinburgh University, who heads the Scottish cohort study, was quoted by ‘The Times’ as saying.

For their research, the scientists studied 122,743 subjects from 50 population studies in the US, Canada, Iceland and Europe, including Scotland, England, Germany, Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Spain, France, Switzerland and Sweden.

And, the nine new genes include those that influence blood sugar levels and also the first gene influencing levels of insulin. A subset of the genes was associated with diabetes itself, say the scientists.

Dr Wilson said the biological pathways that the genes highlighted were those involved in the control of blood sugar and might point to novel drug targets for glycaemic control.

The pathways included not only glucose transport and sensing and pancreatic cell development, but also circadian rhythms and fatty acid metabolism.

The findings have been published in the latest edition of the ‘Nature Genetics’ journal.

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