The most important genes associated with a risk of developing type-2 diabetes have been identified, scientists report today in a new study.
The research, published online in Nature, is the first time the genetic makeup of any disease has been mapped in such detail. It should enable scientists to develop a genetic test to show an individual their likelihood of developing diabetes mellitus type 2, commonly known as type-2 diabetes.
The researchers identified four loci, or points on individuals' genetic maps, which corresponded to a risk of developing the disorder. The scientists, from Imperial College London, McGill University, Canada, and other international institutions, believe their findings explain up to 70% of the genetic background of type-2 diabetes.
In addition, one of the genetic mutations which they detected might further explain the causes behind type-2 diabetes, potentially leading to new treatments. The research revealed that people with type-2 diabetes have a mutation in a particular zinc transporter known as SLC30A8, which is involved in regulating insulin secretion. Type-2 diabetes is associated with a deficiency in insulin and the researchers believe it may be possible to treat it by fixing this transporter.
Professor Philippe Froguel, one of the authors of the study from the Division of Medicine at Imperial College London, said: "The two major reasons why people develop type-2 diabetes are obesity and a family link. Our new findings mean that we can create a good genetic test to predict people's risk of developing this type of diabetes.
"If we can tell someone that their genetics mean they are pre-disposed towards type-2 diabetes, they will be much more motivated to change things such as their diet to reduce their chances of developing the disorder. We can also use what we know about the specific genetic mutations associated with type-2 diabetes to develop better treatments."