London: A new study led by an Indian-origin researcher has identified six new genes that are responsible for the early onset of type-2 diabetes in South Asians (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh).
The findings give scientists 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 researchers from around the world 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.
“This is the first genome-wide association study in South Asians, who comprise one-quarter of the globe``s population, and who carry a high burden of the disease and its complications, including heart attack and stroke,” said Professor Jaspal S Kooner, from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, the lead author for the study.
“We have shown that the genetic variants discovered here in South Asians also exist and contribute to diabetes in Europeans.
“Our studies in Asians and European populations highlight the importance and gain in examining the same problem in different ethnic groups,” he added.
The study has been published in Nature Genetics.