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Scientists probe genetic link to diabetes

By John von Radowitz

New links have been discovered in tracking the genetic connection to diabetes.

The 10 so-called DNA "hotspots" linked to the most common form of diabetes have been uncovered by scientists, bringing the total to more than 60.

International experts probed deeper than ever into the genetic differences between individuals that affect the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Lead investigator Professor Mark McCarthy, from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at Oxford University, said: "The 10 gene regions we have shown to be associated with Type 2 diabetes are taking us nearer a biological understanding of the disease.

"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."

Almost three million people in the UK are affected by diabetes and a further 850,000 may be undiagnosed. Some 90pc of those affected have the Type 2 version of the disease, which is linked to obesity and lifestyle.

The scientists analysed DNA from almost 35,000 people with Type 2 diabetes and 115,000 healthy individuals. They identified 10 new gene regions where DNA changes could be reliably linked to risk of the disease.

Two of these were separately associated with greater diabetes risk in men and women.

Professor McCarthy added: "By looking at all 60 or so gene regions together we can look for signatures of the type of genes that influence the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

"We see genes involved in controlling the process of cell growth, division and ageing, particularly those that are active in the pancreas where insulin is produced.

"We see genes involved in pathways through which the body's fat cells can influence biological processes elsewhere in the body.

"These genome sequencing studies will really help us push forward towards a more complete biological understanding of diabetes," he added.

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