In a breakthrough, scientists have discovered a clutch of genes that dramatically increase the risk of diabetes, paving way for cheap drugs to tackle the disease that affects millions across the world.
The 10 latest genes discovered take the total linked to the condition to more than 60 and provide a fuller picture of the biological processes underlying Type 2 diabetes.
Scientists, led by researchers from the University of Oxford, the Broad Institute of Harvard, MIT and the University of Michigan, examined variations that commonly occur in our DNA and may have some connection to Type 2 diabetes.
The findings are published in the journal Nature Genetics.
“It is hard to come up with new drugs for diabetes without first having an understanding, of which biological processes in the body to target. This work is taking us closer to that goal,” principal investigator Professor Mark McCarthy at Oxford, said.
“The ten gene regions we have shown to be associated with Type 2 diabetes are taking us nearer a biological understanding of the disease,” McCarthy said.
Left untreated, diabetes can cause many different health problems, including heart disease, stroke, nerve damage and blindness. Even a mildly raised glucose level can have damaging effects in the long-term.
Type 2 diabetes is by far the most common form of the disease.
It occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin to control the level of glucose in the blood, and when the body no longer reacts effectively to the insulin that is produced.
The researchers analysed DNA from almost 35,000 people with Type 2 diabetes and approximately 115,000 people.
Two of these showed different effects in men and women, one linked to greater diabetes risk in men and the other in women.
With over 60 genes and gene regions now linked to Type 2 diabetes, the researchers were able to find patterns in the types of genes implicated in the disease.
“By looking at all 60 or so gene regions together we can look for signatures of the type of genes that influence the risk of Type 2 diabetes,” McCarthy said.