The discovery of 42 genetic variants linked to the development of type 2 diabetes could shape new treatments and shed light on how the condition develops.
That is according to Australian researchers from the University of Queensland, who set out to identify the genetic variants in DNA which can lead to type 2 diabetes.
The genes were analysed using a new approach based on a statistical tool which factors in additional biological details to offer a broader perspective on the association between genesand type 2 diabetes.
While diet and lifestyle are most commonly associated with the onset of type 2 diabetes, genetic factors and other factors, such as stress, can also play a role.
Study author Professor Jian Yang said: "The largest sample size to date - nearly 63,000 people with type 2 diabetes and nearly 600,000 people without the disease - allowed us to identify 42 new genetic variants.
"Using this technique, we then examined how a series of genes may be linked to the development of type 2 diabetes. We found that some of the identified genes are already targeted by existing approved drugs, providing a potential opportunity to repurpose these drugs to treat type 2 diabetes."
The scientist, who was awarded the prestigious Australian accolade Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year in 2017, says this is a big step forward in understanding the underlying causes of type 2 diabetes.
Prof Yang has now called for more studies into genetics to be carried out in a bid to improve healthcare across the world.
"The worldwide prevalence of type 2 diabetes has almost doubled from 4.7% in 1980 to 8.5% in 2014. Knowing more about how our genes contribute to its development is critical to finding new opportunities to prevent and treat this disease," added Prof Yang.
The research was published in the Nature Communications journal.
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