Genetic study of south Asians finds diabetes clues
23 September 2011
Research led by Imperial academics has identified six new genetic variants associated with type 2 diabetes in south Asians, in a study published in the journal Nature Genetics in late August.
The findings give new leads in the search for diagnostic markers and drug targets to prevent and treat this major disease. People of south Asian ancestry are up to four times more likely than Europeans to develop type 2 diabetes, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
The new study is the first to focus on genes underlying diabetes amongst people originating from the south Asian region (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh). The researchers examined the DNA of 18,731 people with type 2 diabetes and 39,856 healthy controls. The genomes of the participants were analysed to look for locations where variations were more common in those with diabetes. The results identified six positions, where differences of a single letter in the genetic code were associated with type 2 diabetes, suggesting that nearby genes have a role in the disease.
Dr John Chambers (Public Health) said: “Type 2 diabetes is more common in south Asian populations than any other ethnic group, but the reason for this increased risk is unclear. Although lifestyle factors such as unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and obesity are important causes of diabetes in south Asians, these are only part of the explanation. Genetic factors have been widely considered to play a role in the increased risk of type 2 diabetes in Asians, but to date have not been systematically explored in this population.”
— Sam Wong, Communications and Development