Study identifies new gene variants for type-2 diabetes

Researchers in the US found hundreds of genetic variants never before linked to type 2 diabetes after examining the genes of more than 200,000 people all over the world who have the condition.

The study also identified gene variants that vary by ethnicity, as well as variants tied to complications related to type-2 diabetes like coronary heart disease and chronic kidney disease. This expansive genetic investigation, the largest of its kind, has the potential to dramatically impact care for millions of people worldwide who live with the type 2 diabetes.

The study is published in the latest edition of the journal Nature Genetics.

About the research

Using data from the US, the UK, Europe and Japan the researchers analyzed a study population of 1.4 million people from around the world, of which almost 230,000 people had type-2 diabetes.

From there, they broke down the genetic makeup of those hundreds of thousands of people and found 558 independent genetic variants that are differentially distributed between people with and without type-2 diabetes, 21 being European-ancestry-specific and seven African American-ancestry specific.

Of the 588 variants found, 286 had never before been discovered. Researchers then set out to see if certain genetic variants among this group of people could be tied to specific type-2-diabetes-related diseases.

Early identification of complications

Ultimately, three were linked to coronary heart disease, two to acute ischemic stroke, four to retinopathy, two to chronic kidney disease, and one to neuropathy. Building on this research, the scientific community can assess which of the surrounding genes nearby the identified genetic variants is likely to be the causal gene that alters the risk of type-2 diabetes, and that could lead to early interventions to limit controllable risks of developing the condition.”

Marijana Vujkovic, a co-leader on the study said, “While so many genetic variants were found in people with type-2 diabetes, no one variant was implicated as the “worst” or “most dangerous.”

Co-senior author Benjamin F. Voight added, “However, just like heart disease, schizophrenia, or obesity, it is the accumulation of a large number of these variants that can add up to a considerable increase in risk. We hope this study can not only help find that subset of patients with substantial risk, but also to motivate new, future studies for treatments based on these findings.”

Improved future therapy

These researchers say more knowledge about genetic variants related to type-2 diabetes may help identify potential therapeutic targets for type-2 diabetes. They also say it can help guide treatment plans for people with the condition who may also be predisposed to specific diabetes complications.

Knowing the genetic susceptibility for diabetes complications in a patient already diagnosed with type-2 diabetes, could help guide that patient’s care.

Following the patients from this analysis over the long term will help illuminate the risk associated with these genetic variants, the study authors say. Accordingly, they are planning to do a long-term examination of how genetics influence disease progression among patients with type-2 diabetes and associated metabolic disorders.

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