Study finds new light on how genes contribute to diabetes

A global study of varied ethnicities, which included Indian scientists, has offered fresh light on how genes contribute to Type 2 diabetes. The study was co-led by Prof Andrew Morris of the University of Manchester and published in Nature Genetics under the title DIAMANTE (DIAbetes Meta-ANalysis of Trans-Ethnic Association Studies).

Over the last three decades, the global prevalence of Type 2 diabetes, a hereditary illness with high morbidity, has surged fourfold. The key hubs of this spike are Asia, particularly India and China.

Indians are regarded to be particularly vulnerable to Type 2 diabetes because they are centrally obese, or fat around the belly, which indicates fat around their visceral organs, and are insulin resistant from birth. This is in contrast to Europeans, who are generally overweight.  Despite this, the majority of studies on the genetic basis of Type 2 diabetes have been undertaken on European ancestry populations.

Dr. Giriraj R Chandak, Chief Scientist at the CSIR's Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CSIR - CCMB) and one of the study's lead investigators from India, described the study as a watershed moment in which scientists from all over the world joined forces to better understand the similarities and differences in genetic susceptibility to Type 2 diabetes in different populations. His research has previously shown that Indians have more genetic variation than Europeans, making it difficult to forecast Type 2 diabetes risk in Indian populations using European data.

This recent study compared the genomic DNA of 1.8 lakh people with Type 2 diabetes to that of 11.6 lakh healthy people from five ethnic groups: Europeans, East Asians, South Asians, Africans, and Hispanics, and found a large number of genetic differences (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms or SNPs) between the patients and the healthy people.

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