College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine

New genes linked to diabetes

Researchers have taken a major step forward in understanding the causes of late-onset diabetes.

An international group of scientists - including several at the University - has identified a set of genes that control the body’s response to glucose in the blood.

It is hoped the discovery could lead to new treatments for diabetes, which affects more than 220 million people worldwide.

Genetic clues

Late-onset diabetes occurs when the tissues of the body become resistant to the effects of the hormone insulin.

Insulin is needed to regulate the level of glucose in the blood.

To find out which genes are involved in glucose control, the team studied the genes and blood glucose levels of more than 120,000 people.

The results showed that nine genes influence glucose levels, several of which are associated with an increased risk of late-onset diabetes.

International collaboration

The study was conducted by an international group of scientists and involved researchers from 174 medical research centres around the world.

It is believed to be one of the largest genetics studies ever.

The Scottish part of the collaboration, the ORCADES study, was funded by the Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government and the Royal Society.

The discovery of these new genes influencing blood sugar levels is the first step on the important journey to developing new therapies for diabetes. Genetic studies like this open the door onto disease mechanisms and pathways we have no other way of discovering, and which are the raw material for intelligent drug design.

Dr Jim WilsonRoyal Society University Research Fellow, Public Health Sciences