Gene mutations that increase the risk of type 2 diabetes also increase the risk of heart diseases, according to a study which links the two disorders that are the leading causes of global morbidity and death.
Type 2 diabetes (T2D), which has assumed epidemic proportions, affects over 380 million people worldwide; but there remain knowledge gaps in understanding the etiology of type-2 diabetes.
It also poses a significant risk for coronary heart disease (CHD), but there is no explanation for the biological pathways that explain the connection between the two.
Researchers from the University of Pennysylvania in the US analysed genetic data published in the journal Nature Genetics to look into what caused type 2 diabetes.
They also clarified how the two conditions are linked.
The researchers first uncovered 16 new diabetes genetic risk factors, from the genome sequence information of over 250,000 people. They also found one new CHD genetic risk factor and in the process provided novel insights about the mechanisms of the two diseases.
They further showed that most of the sites on the genome known to be associated with higher diabetes risk are also associated with higher CHD risk.
The researchers identified a specific gene that influences risk for both diseases for eight of the sites.
"Identifying these gene variants linked to both type 2 diabetes and CHD risk in principle opens up opportunities to lower the risk of both outcomes with a single drug," said Danish Saleheen, assistant professor at University of Pennsylvania, PTI reported.
"From a drug development perspective, it would make sense to focus on those pathways that are most strongly linked to both diseases," Saleheen said.
Researchers have identified gene variants that boost the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease - the leading cause of global morbidity and mortality, a finding that points to potential targets for common drugs.
While the study confirmed most of the known diabetes ''risk loci''– sites on the genome where small DNA variations have been linked to altered, usually higher diabetes risk - the researchers also uncovered 16 new risk factors.
The researchers also identified eight specific gene variants that are strongly linked to altered risk for both diseases.
''Identifying these gene variants linked to both Type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease risk in principle opens up opportunities to lower the risk of both outcomes with a single drug,'' said co-senior author Danish Saleheen, Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania in the US.
''From a drug development perspective, it would make sense to focus on those pathways that are most strongly linked to both diseases.''
Seven of the gene variants, in line with expectations, increased risk for both Type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.
The eighth, a variant of the gene for the cholesterol-transport protein ApoE, has greater association with higher diabetes risk but lower coronary heart disease risk.
According to experts, overall, the genetic link between the diseases appears to work in one direction so that risk genes for Type 2 diabetes are much more likely to be associated with higher coronary heart disease risk than the other way around, according to the paper published by the researchers.
There could also be some pathways where pharmacological lowering of one disease increases the risk of the other, they add.
''Using evidence from human genetics, it should be possible to design drugs for Type-2 diabetes that have either beneficial or neutral effects on coronary heart disease risk,'' Saleheen said, www.dayafterindia.com reported.