04:57pm Saturday 18 January 2020

International Study Identifies 12 New Genetic Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes

PD Dr. Thomas Illig. Photo: Jan Roeder

International Study Identifies 12 New Genetic Risk Factors for Type  2 DiabetesThe study represents a major contribution towards elucidating the complex pathogenesis of this important widespread disease. Nature Genetics has published the findings of this study in its current issue.

To elucidate the genetic causes of type 2 diabetes, scientists from Germany, the U.S., Great Britain, Iceland and eight other countries analyzed the data of more than 140,000 study participants. The scientists were able to identify 12 new genetic risk factors, of which 11 influence insulin production or the effect of insulin. Moreover, for the first time, a genetic association of type 2 diabetes with the X chromosome was proven. This could be a first clue to the gender-specific differences in diabetes risk: Women have two X chromosomes, men have one X and one Y chromosome. Altogether, 38 genetic risk factors are currently known for type 2 diabetes mellitus.

“Once we know the exact causes of type 2 diabetes, we can develop more effective prevention and therapy strategies,” said Dr. Thomas Illig, research group leader at the Institute of Epidemiology of Helmholtz Zentrum München and one of the corresponding authors of the study. Dr. Cornelia Huth, who played a key role in the selection of the study participants and the analyses of Helmholtz Zentrum München, added: “What enabled us to identify these factors with a high level of confidence is the large number of investigated subjects in this collaborative study. Each factor by itself contributes only slightly to the entire diabetes risk. But to find out more about the pathogenic mechanisms of the disease, even these slight contributions are important.” Dr. Christian Herder and Dr. Wolfgang Rathmann, both of whom are research group leaders at the German Diabetes Center, pointed out: “One important finding of the new study is that some of the gene loci associated with increased type 2 diabetes risk are also risk variants for other diseases such as coronary heart disease, autoimmune diseases and cancer. This suggests that specific proteins could be relevant for several diseases at the same time.”

Type 2 diabetes is a disorder of glucose homeostasis. Characteristic features of this disorder are that the effect and sufficient production of the hormone insulin become lost. The pathogenic mechanisms of this disease are not yet fully understood. It is known, however, that the combination of genetic susceptibility and lifestyle factors leads to diabetes. In Germany alone, not less than seven percent of the population has been diagnosed with the disease – altogether almost six million people. Additionally, studies show that several million men and women in Germany suffer from as yet undiagnosed and thus untreated diabetes.

Further Information

Original publication: Voight et al. Twelve type 2 diabetes susceptibility loci identified through large-scale association analysis. Nature Genetics online, June 27th (DOI 10.1038/ng.609)

The Institute of Epidemiology of Helmholtz Zentrum München investigates methodological problems related to the quantification of small risks, the impact of particles and airborne pollutants on the lung and cardiovascular system, and the regional distribution and development of diseases of the respiratory tract and allergies. A new focus of the institute is the molecular analysis of complex diseases (e.g. asthma, type 2 diabetes, cardiac infarction). The main aim is to investigate the role of environmental factors and genetic predisposition on human health using epidemiological methods.Read more at: http://www.helmholtz-muenchen.de/en/epi

KORA (Cooperative Health Research in the Region Augsburg), headed by Prof. Dr. H.-Erich Wichmann, is a regional research platform and network for population-based surveys and subsequent follow-up studies in the fields of epidemiology, health economics, and health care research. Read more at: http://www.helmholtz-muenchen.de/en/kora

Helmholtz Zentrum München is the German Research Center for Environmental Health. As leading research center oriented toward Environmental Health, it focuses on chronic and complex diseases which develop from the interaction of environmental factors and individual genetic disposition such as diabetes, pulmonary diseases and diseases of the nervous system. Helmholtz Zentrum München has around 1700 staff members. The head office of the center is located in Neuherberg to the north of Munich on a 50-hectare research campus. Helmholtz Zentrum München belongs to the Helmholtz Association, Germany’s largest research organization, a community of 16 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of 26,500 staff members. Read more at: http://www.helmholtz-muenchen.de/en

The German Diabetes Center (DDZ) is a member of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Association (WGL), which consists of 86 research institutes. Through its research, the German Diabetes Center seeks to improve the prevention, early detection, diagnosis and therapy of diabetes mellitus and its complications and to make improvements in the epidemiological data situation in Germany. In addition, the German Diabetes Center aims to be a German reference center for the clinical picture of diabetes by serving as contact to all diabetes healthcare professionals and by preparing and providing scientific information on diabetes mellitus for the general public. For more information, please see http://www.ddz.uni-duesseldorf.de and http://www.leibniz-gemeinschaft.de.

Contacts for media representatives

Sven Winkler
head of the Communications Department
Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health
Phone: +49(0)89-3187-3946, email presse@helmholtz-muenchen.de

Dr. med. Wolfgang Rathmann
head of the research group “Epidemiology” at the German Diabetes Center (DDZ) Düsseldorf
Phone: +49(0)211/3382-663, email rathmann@ddz.uni-duesseldorf.de

Dr. phil. nat. Christian Herder
head of the research group “Inflammation and Diabetes” at the German Diabetes Center (DDZ) Düsseldorf
Phone: +49(0)211/3382-647, email Christian.Herder@ddz.uni-duesseldorf.de

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