New variants found that indicate a predisposition to type 2 diabetes

More regions on DNA flagged as having connection to the disease, bringing total known regions to 38

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ANN ARBOR, Mich.—An international team by a pair of scientists from the University of Michigan have discovered a dozen more regions on the genome possessing DNA variants that are associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes, bringing the number of such known regions to 38.

In conducting their studies, the researchers also wanted to know if people who hadn't yet developed type 2 diabetes but did have the diabetes variant showed elevated blood glucose levels, a main predictor of diabetes, says study co-leader Laura Scott, associate research scientist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

"What our study suggests is that many of these variants are associated with changes in glucose levels long before people get diabetes," says study co-leader Michael Boehnke, a professor of biostatistics at University of Michigan's School of Public Health.

One surprising finding, the co-leaders say, was that that the regions with diabetes variants also seemed to be associated with diseases not particularly related to diabetes. Researchers looked at a database containing a list of all the genome wide association (GWA) studies to date. They examined regions where there was a type 2 diabetes association to see if there was an increased association for other diseases and traits that have been studied thus far.

"We saw surprising overlap or predisposition of not just related but also apparently unrelated traits," says Boehnke, who suggests that there could be master regulators in the genome that play a role in many different aspects of physiology and health.

The researchers say their next step is to take the research beyond GWA, which looks at a few million places on the genome, and bring the work into the realm of genome sequencing. Genome sequencing will allow researchers to assay most of the three billion base pairs in the human genome and find variants that are less common but still might be associated with disease. Currently, a three-study international team co-led by the Michigan group is sequencing 2,650 individuals with and without diabetes, in what is said to be one of the largest sequencing projects underway in the world. Scott and Boehnke hope to have information about the variants present in individuals with and without diabetes within the 18 months, give or take.

Their paper, "Twelve type 2 diabetes susceptibility loci identified through large-scale association analysis," appeared online June 27 in Nature Genetics.

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