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Landmark study highlights complex genetic risk factors behind type 2 diabetes

A UK collaboration of scientists has identified three new genes that predispose individuals to develop type 2 diabetes, bringing scientists a step closer towards understanding what causes this complex disease.

The study, jointly led by researchers at the University of Oxford and the Peninsula Medical School, Exeter, and forming part of the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium looked at over 2 billion pieces of genetic data and 6,000 people with type 2 diabetes and 8,000 controls to track down these three genes. In addition, they confirmed the link between the disease and a further two previously-identified genes.

The findings, published online today in the journal Science, bring the total number of genes known to be involved in type 2 diabetes to nine, including the FTO gene reported by the same UK group two weeks ago. The FTO gene influences individual risk of type 2 diabetes through its effect on weight and obesity.

Type 2 diabetes occurs as a result of a failure of the body to produce enough insulin to maintain normal levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. This failure is usually compounded by a reduction in the capacity of the insulin released to work properly in tissues such as muscle and fat (known as insulin resistance). It is a major cause of heart disease and stroke, as well as blindness and kidney failure.

There are currently around 200 million people who have type 2 diabetes worldwide, yet its underlying cause is poorly understood, limiting both treatment and prevention. Lifestyle factors, such as poor diet and lack of exercise have been known for some time to increase risk of developing the disease, but scientists are becoming increasingly aware of the role played by genetics.

For each of the three genes described in the paper, the researchers have found that there are two common "versions", one of which is associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and the other with r
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Contact: Craig Brierley
c.brierley@wellcome.ac.uk
44-207-611-7329
Wellcome Trust
26-Apr-2007


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