A genetic discovery

By | Science & Technology
A recent study from University College London and Imperial College London may bring the scientific community closer to understanding the genetic causes of Type 2 diabetes. Credit@Pixabay.

In a collaborative study, led by University College London (UCL) in partnership with Imperial College London, two institutes set out to study the metabolic condition known as diabetes and their findings may expose new information about it. To briefly explain, diabetes primarily appears in two main types, Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. According to the NHS, the Type 1 variant of diabetes is where the body’s immune system interferes with the cells responsible for insulin production. Insulin is produced in the pancreas, which lies behind the stomach, and its leading function within the human body is to facilitate the digestion of glucose which may be used for energy. Insulin in the body helps to control sugar levels in the blood and this serves an important function in the digestive system; as food is digested, those affected with diabetes may require additional effort to break down glucose from foods into energy. The effect Type 2 diabetes has on the body alters the everyday function of insulin as it may restrict the amount of insulin being produced or affect the way cells in the body react to insulin. Where Type 1 diabetes might develop quickly, over a span of a few weeks or days, Type 2 diabetes might take years to fully form as the early symptoms tend to be quite general.

However, a recent study from UCL along with Imperial College London may bring the scientific community closer to understanding the genetic causes of Type 2 diabetes. To achieve this, scientists conducted a study, which was able to identify 111 new chromosome locations (‘loci’) in the human genome, a discovery which may serve to highlight levels of susceptibility within individuals in the future. Prior to the study, 76 chromosome locations were identified making these 111 new chromosome locations a step forward in understanding diabetes. Of the 111 newly discovered chromosome locations, 93 (84%) seem to have been found in both African American and European populations, with only 18 being European-specific. This was primarily because the sample population selected consisted of over 9691 European and African American individuals.

In addition to the known 76 chromosome locations, 111 new chromosome locations were discovered. Credit@Pixabay.

Of the chosen sample selection, 5800 subjects had Type 2 diabetes and the analysis conducted seemed to reveal multiple Type 2 diabetes chromosome locations across the range of genomes. To identify these new chromosome locations, the study used a method developed by UCL which seemed to be based upon genetic maps. Using the genetic mapping technique the study was able to accurately study the characteristics of chromosome locations which may result in a greater understanding of diabetes within the scientific community. The team involved in this research are presently analysing the new chromosome locations discovered to identify patterns or other correlations related to Type 2 diabetes. According to Dr Winston Lau (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment), “our results mean we are able to now target the remaining loci on the genetic maps with deep sequencing to try and find the causal mutations within them.” The value of this study seems to result in scientists having a greater understanding of diabetes and individuals susceptible to the condition. With a greater understanding, scientists might look at combating diabetes using more effective methods as well as ensuring any preventative methods are made available to individuals susceptible to the metabolic condition.

Journal reference: dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajhg.2017.04.007

How might new research help scientists further understand the condition of diabetes?

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