An international consortium of scientists has identified 12 new genes associated with Type II diabetes, in the largest study of the genetics of the condition to date.
The consortium from across Europe, the US and Canada compared the DNA of over 8,000 people with Type II diabetes with that of almost 40,000 people without the condition at 2.5 million locations across the genome. They then checked the genetic variations they found in another group of over 34,000 people with diabetes and almost 60,000 controls.
This brings the total number of genetic regions known to be associated with Type II diabetes to 38. “The signals we have identified provide important clues to the biological basis of Type II diabetes,” said Mark McCarthy from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford, who led the consortium. “The challenge will be to turn these genetic findings into better ways of treating and preventing the condition.”
“One important theme is that several of the genes seem to be important in controlling the number of pancreatic beta cells that an individual has,” McCarthy said. “This helps settle a long-standing controversy about the role of beta-cell numbers in Type II diabetes risk, and points to the importance of developing therapies that are able to preserve or restore depleted numbers of beta cells.”
While the individual effects of the 12 genetic regions identified are small these findings could have a substantial impact on understanding of the biology of diabetes and the development of therapies.