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Ethnic diversity in research identifies more traits related to diabetes

A large scale genetic study, including our data, has found more regions of the genome linked to type 2 diabetes traits by using volunteer data from all over the world. This is more than if the research had been done on Europeans alone.

Doctor showing patient how test their blood sugar

Until now, nearly 87% of this type of research has been done on Europeans. This means the research may not fully benefit people with non-European ancestry.

Researchers gathered data from lots of previous research. They conducted a study to understand what genetic variations might be linked to type 2 diabetes. The research, led by The University of Exeter, shows that researching different ancestries provides more and better results. This ultimately benefits global patient care.

The team studied data across many different genetic studies and included more than 280,000 people without diabetes. The study also included data from over 20,000 Generation Scotland volunteers. Overall, 30 percent of the study included people of East Asian, Hispanic, African-American, South Asian and sub-Saharan African origin. 

Researchers looked at traits such as fasting glucose levels and insulin. This, alongside ethnic diversity, helped researchers discover 24 more regions of the genome related to type 2 diabetes than if they had conducted the research in Europeans alone.

Although some regions of the genome were not detected in all ancestries, they were still useful to gain information about type 2 diabetes for that ancestry.

Type 2 diabetes is an increasingly huge global health challenge– with most of the biggest increases occurring outside of Europe. While there are a lot of shared genetic factors between different countries and cultures, our research tells us that they do differ, in ways that we need to understand. It’s critical to ensuring we can deliver a precision diabetes medicine approach that optimises treatment and care for everyone.

Professor Inês BarrosoResearch Lead, University of Exeter

We discovered 24 additional regions of the genome by including cohorts which were more ethnically diverse than we would have done if we’d restricted our work to Europeans. Beyond the moral arguments for ensuring research is reflective of global populations, our work demonstrates that this approach generates better results.

Dr Ji ChenLead Author, University of Exeter

The study has been published in Nature Genetics. You can find out more about it in the link below.

The Trans-Ancestral Genomic Architecture of Glycemic Traits

This study was made possible thanks to the MAGIC collaboration, which we are part of. It's made up of more than 400 global academics. Learn more about the collaboration in the link below.

MAGIC Collaboration