SCIENTISTS have discovered a clutch of genes that dramatically increase the risk of developing diabetes.
The breakthrough could help develop simple and cheap drugs to tackle the life-threatening illness, which afflicts
nearly three million Britons.
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.
The team, led by researchers from the University of Oxford, the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, and the
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, examined variations that commonly occur in our DNA and may have some
connection to Type 2 diabetes.
Their findings are published in the journal Nature Genetics.
Principal investigator Professor Mark McCarthy, of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at Oxford, said:
“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.”
At least 2.9 million people are affected by diabetes in the UK, and there are thought to be 850,000 more who do not
know they have it.
Left untreated, diabetes can cause problems including heart disease, stroke, nerve damage and blindness.
Ninety per cent of UK sufferers have Type 2 diabetes, which is fuelled by an unhealthy lifestyle.
The researchers analysed DNA from almost 35,000 people with Type 2 diabetes and 115,000 people without.
Dr Iain Frame, director of research for Diabetes UK, said:
“This really is exciting world-class research.
“[It] should help bring about new treatments that can be tailored to an individual patient. It is for this reason that Diabetes UK has made a substantial investment in this area of research, and continues to do so by funding some
of the authors in this present study.”
The next step is to get a complete picture of genetic changes driving Type 2 diabetes by sequencing people’s DNA in full.