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Ten New Gene Regions Linked to Type 2 Diabetes

Aug 14, 2012 11:54 AM EDT

A new study that is being published in the journal Nature Genetics have identified 10 new regions of DNA linked to type 2 diabetes, increasing the number of genes and gene regions associated with the disease to more than 60.

This new study gives a fuller picture of the genetics and biological process underlying type 2 diabetes with some clear patterns emerging.

'The ten gene regions we have shown to be associated with type 2 diabetes are taking us nearer a biological understanding of the disease,' says principal investigator Professor Mark McCarthy of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford. '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.'

According to the international team of researchers their findings may help experts develop treatments for the condition. The study, led by researchers from the University of Oxford, the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, and the University of Michigan, investigated common genetic variations in DNA that may be linked to type 2 diabetes.

For the study the researchers studied DNA from almost 35,000 people with type 2 diabetes and close to 115000 people who were not a victim of this, identifying 10 new gene regions where DNA changes could be reliably linked to risk of the disease.thy noticed that two of these showed different effects in men and women, one linked to greater diabetes risk in men and the other in women.

"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. "We see genes involved in controlling the process of cell growth, division and aging, 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."

He is currently leading another international study that has mapped the entire genetic codes of 2800 people with and without diabetes. First results will be available next year.

"Now we have the ability to do a complete job, capturing all genetic variation linked to type 2 diabetes," said the professor. "Not only will we be able to look for signals we've so far missed, but we will also be able to pinpoint which individual DNA change is responsible. These genome sequencing studies will really help us push forward towards a more complete biological understanding of diabetes."

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