Researchers identify new gene variants associated with type 2 diabetes risk

The largest genetics study of its kind has identified new gene variants associated with risk for type 2 diabetes, according to The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

In all, researchers identified variants in four previously unknown genes associated with type 2 diabetes. They also discovered six new independent genetic signals in known type 2 diabetes genes.

The international study found that gene variants associated with type 2 diabetes risk cross multiple ethnic groups. Most studies until now were based on people of Caucasian ancestry.

Researchers from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School analyzed 39 previous studies of multiethnic populations. The study included more than 17,000 people with type 2 diabetes and 70,000 control subjects.

Researchers used a customized gene analysis tool to analyze 50,000 gene variants across 2,100 genes with known associations with cardiovascular and metabolic functions.

“Scientists have identified only about 10 percent of the generic variants contributing to type 2 diabetes, and most previous studies have been based on people of European ancestry,” said senior co-author Brendan J. Keating, PhD, of the Center for Applied Genomics at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Almost 40 gene variants have now been identified to raise or lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. The majority of gene variants remain undiscovered.

This study's genome-wide screening approach in large multi-ethnic samples should be effective in discovering additional diabetes gene variants relevant to multiple ethnic populations, Keating said.

The results of this study may focus attention on biological targets for developing medications to treat type 2 diabetes.

“As we continue to identify more genes associated with type 2 diabetes, we expect that further investigation of their specific biological functions will guide researchers toward new therapies for preventing and treating this disease,” said Keating.

The study appears in the online edition of American Journal of Human Genetics.

Source: The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

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