Diabetes – A difficult riddle to solve

The greatest increase has been seen in countries such as India and China, as well as in the Middle East.

“We know that people’s genes have not changed in recent decades, so it must be something in the environment, in our lifestyle, that leads to an increasing number of people developing the disease”, says Professor Leif Groop, who works at the Division of Diabetes, Metabolism and Endocrinology at Lund University.

Leif Groop has spent his entire working life trying to understand type 2 diabetes. In recent years, great progress has been made in research and Professor Groop hopes to come closer to an answer on the causes of the disease.

Even if the disease is linked to our lifestyle, people are not all affected to the same extent.
“It is our genes that decide how we react to changes in our surroundings. The solution is thus to be found in the interaction between our genes and our lifestyles”, explains Leif Groop.

This is why the researchers are today trying
Professor Leif Groop is sleuthing for the pieces of the jigsaw to better understand diabetes.

Leif Groop had no plans to go into genetics research when he started work as a doctor in Finland in the 1970s. At that time, diabetes care was insufficient and Professor Groop started working to initiate self-care. After this, he developed an interest in the disease.

“I became fascinated by the diversity of the disease and began conducting research in order to find out more.”

When the research community began taking an interest in genetics in the 1980s, Leif Groop realised that this could be an important tool to understand more about the disease.

In the early 1990s, Leif Groop began cooperating with one of the world’s foremost geneticists, Eric Lander. Since then, he and his research colleagues have been trying to find the genes that are related to type 2 diabetes.

“Today we have a list of over 30 genes that increase the risk of the disease. The most im- portant gene, TCF7L2, which we are currently studying, has been shown to significantly in- crease the risk. We are now looking at which other genes it activates.”

Leif Groop and his colleagues are also studying GIP, which plays an important role in how we absorb food.
“There have been very strong developments in technology over recent years, which means that we will be able to map the entire genome within a few years. This is a prerequisite if we are to un- derstand what causes the disease.”

Leif Groop’s dream is to be able to understand diabetes; not only to catalogue the genes that are involved, but also to use the information to pro- vide effective treatment.

“It is our own imagination that limits the research. If we set it free we can achieve great things!”