Newly discovered genetic markers help pinpoint diabetes risks, complications

Key Takeaways

  • A team of international researchers has located 1,289 genetic markers associated with Type 2 diabetes (145 of which are newly identified) and generated risk scores for diabetes complications.
  • The research advances understanding into the inheritability of Type 2 diabetes and may help identify new genetic targets for disease treatment.

In the largest genome-wide association study to date on Type 2 diabetes, a team of international researchers, co-led by a University of Massachusetts Amherst genetic epidemiologist, has located 1,289 genetic markers associated with Type 2 diabetes (145 of which are newly identified) and generated risk scores for diabetes complications. (Genome-wide association studies involve rapidly scanning markers across the complete sets of DNA, or genomes, of many people to find genetic variations associated with a particular disease.) The study — emerging from the newly formed Type 2 Diabetes Global Genomics Initiative — included data from a highly diverse group of more than 2.5 million individuals, 428,452 of whom have Type 2 diabetes.  In research published in the journal Nature that advances understanding into the inheritability of Type 2 diabetes, the scientists used cutting-edge computational approaches to identify eight distinct mechanistic clusters of genetic variants linked to the disease. The clusters were “associated with other diabetes risk factors — such as obesity and liver-lipid metabolism — suggesting the mechanisms for how the variants may be acting to cause diabetes,” says co-senior author Cassandra Spracklen, assistant professor of biostatistics and epidemiology in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences. They also discovered associations between individual clusters and diabetes complications such as coronary artery disease and end-stage diabetic kidney disease. Ultimately, the goal is to identify potential genetic targets to treat or even cure the chronic metabolic disease that affects and sometimes debilitates more than 400 million adults worldwide, according to the International Diabetes Federation.

Source: University of Massachusetts Amherst, ScienceDaily, February 19, 2024; see source article