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Gene Test Will Identify Who Will Get Diabetes

Feb 13, 2007

An international team of scientists has made a breakthrough which could help halt the growth of diabetes. A set of genes that appear to raise the risk of adult-onset diabetes has been identified, promising a test that can predict who is likely to develop the disease. An international team of scientists has identified five different genetic variants that are linked to the condition, which is caused both by family inheritance and lifestyle factors such as poor diet, obesity and smoking. The five variants are thought together to account for about 70 per cent of the genetic risk of type 2 diabetes, the form of the disease that generally strikes in adulthood.

The findings are important as they pave the way for a blood test that could be used to identify people who are predisposed to developing diabetes.


Such a test could be used in a screening program to pick up those who are most at risk, who could then alter their diet and exercise patterns accordingly. Professor Philippe Froguel of Imperial College, London, one of the leaders of the study, 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 predisposed 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.”

The research, is the first time the genetic make-up of any disease has been mapped in such detail.

One of the five genes, SLC30A8, is involved in transporting the mineral zinc in the body, and is known to be involved in secreting insulin, a hormone that is important to metabolizing sugar.
As type 2 diabetes is associated with an insulin deficiency, it could be possible to treat it by fixing the faulty zinc transporter. “We can also use what we know about the specific genetic mutations associated with type2 diabetes to develop better treatments,” Professor Froguel said.
The scientists reached their conclusions after comparing the genetic makeup of 700 people with type 2 diabetes and a family history of the condition, with 700 controls. They looked at mutations in the building blocks, called nucleotides, which make up DNA.

There are mutations in about one in every 600 nucleotides and the scientists examined more than 392,000 of these to find the ones specific to type 2 diabetes.

Professor David Balding, epidemiologist at Imperial College, said: "Our research shows this technology can generate big leaps forward. The task now is to study the genes identified in our work more intensively, to understand more fully the disease processes involved, devise therapies for those affected and to try to prevent future cases."

published online in the science magazine, Nature, Feb, 2007


Diabetes, Heart Disease Go Hand-In-Hand: If a patient has diabetes, a doctor should also check for heart disease and vice versa, because they often go hand-in-hand, say European guidelines. "We are dealing with two sides of the same coin: diabetes on one side and cardiovascular diseases on the other," said Eberhard Standl, , president-elect of the International Diabetes Federation of Europe. "The great merit of these guidelines is that they recognize this. … Cardiologists and diabetologists from all over Europe were involved in writing these guidelines, and we hope that they will improve the management and care of the millions of patients who have both cardiovascular and metabolic diseases in common," Standl said. The guidelines on diabetes, pre-diabetes and cardiovascular diseases are published in the print version of the European Heart Journal.