12 new genes linked to type 2 diabetes

Twelve new genes associated with type2 diabetes have been identified in the largest study yet of the connections between differences in people's DNA and their risk of diabetes.

The international consortium of scientists, led by Professor Mark McCarthy of the University of Oxford, report their findings in the journal Nature Genetics - 10 years after the first draft of the human genome was announced on 26 June 2000.

"The signals we have identified provide important clues to the biological basis of type 2 diabetes,' says Professor McCarthy of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at Oxford University. 'The challenge will be to turn these genetic findings into better ways of treating and preventing the condition."

The identification of 12 new genes brings the total number of genetic regions known to be associated with type 2 diabetes to 38. The genes tend to be involved in the working of pancreatic cells that produce the hormone insulin (insulin is crucial for controlling levels of glucose in the blood), the control of insulin's action in the body, and in cell-cycle regulation.

The findings not only improve understanding of the processes underpinning type 2 diabetes, but give new biological pathways that can be explored as targets for new therapies.

"One important theme is that several of the genes seem to be important in controlling the number of pancreatic beta-cells that an individual has," says Professor McCarthy (beta-cells are the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.)