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Scientists find new genes linked to Type 2 diabetes

Scientists were able to zero in on parts of the genome involved in disease risk, which helps them pinpoint genes that cause the disease.

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Woman scientist touching DNA molecule image at media screen
(ESB Professional via Shutterstock)

By Gwyn Wright via SWNS

Scientists have discovered 40 new genes that make some people more prone to Type 2 diabetes.

The findings suggest the condition is not just caused by bad lifestyle choices.

Researchers have uncovered 117 genes connected to the illness, 40 of which have never been found before.

The link exists in people from a wide range of backgrounds including East and South Asian, African and Hispanic people as well as Europeans.

Earlier research had focused on white Europeans so scientists' knowledge of the condition was limited.

For the new study, researchers in Britain and the US compared the genes of almost 181,000 people with type two diabetes and 1.16 million people without it.

Almost half of the genes they analyzed were those of non-white people.

Information on the genes was found in 122 previous studies.

The team searched across the entire human genome for genetic markers called single nucleotide polymorphisms.

This technique allows researchers to look at differences between people with and without a disease.

Scientists were able to zero in on parts of the genome involved in disease risk, which helps them pinpoint genes that cause the disease.

Type two diabetes affects 392 people across the world and its prevalence has tripled in the past three decades.

The research is an important step towards the creation of “genetic risk scores” which can help identify people who are more predisposed to develop type two diabetes, and could also help them uncover new treatments.

Study co-author Professor Anubha Mahajan from the University of Oxford said: “We have now identified 117 genes that are likely to cause Type 2 diabetes, 40 of which have not been reported before.

“That is why we feel this constitutes a major step forward in understanding the biology of this disease.”

Study co-author Dr. Cassandra Spracklen from the University of Massachusetts Amherst added: “Our findings matter because we’re moving toward using genetic scores to weigh up a person’s risk of diabetes.

“Up to now, over 80 percent of genomic research of this type has been conducted in white European-ancestry populations, but we know that scores developed exclusively in individuals of one ancestry don’t work well in people of a different ancestry.”

Study co-author Professor Mark McCarthy from the University of Oxford added: “Because our research has included people from many different parts of the world, we now have a much more complete picture of the ways in which patterns of genetic risk for type two diabetes vary across populations.”

The findings were published in the journal Nature Genetics.

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