A multi-group team headed by University of Michigan (U-M) researchers has identified six new genes that play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes.
Among this group is the second gene known to also play a role in prostate cancer, the researchers found.
According to the team, the findings may offer a greater understanding of the mechanisms that control glucose, or sugar, levels in the blood, and also to the disruption that leads to type 2 diabetes.
Laura Scott, assistant research scientist in the Department of Biostatistics, said that due to the results of this study the total number of genes or genomic regions implicated in diabetes has come up to 16.
During the course of this study, the researchers discovered the gene JAZF1 having a distinct variant that plays a role in prostate cancer, and is the second gene that is vital in both conditions.
First such gene common to both prostate cancer and type 2 diabetes was HNF1B, and is also found to be linked to an early onset form of diabetes discovered at U-M in an unrelated study, called Maturity Onset Diabetes of the Young (MODY).
While the same variant linked to increased risk of diabetes is also associated with decreased risk of prostate cancer in case of HNF1B, the diabetes and prostate cancer variants are located in different parts of the gene in case of JAZF1 and there is no known relationship between them.
"Some of these genes for type 2 diabetes might be involved in diseases other than prostate cancer, in fact there is already a known overlap with heart disease in another genomic region? We have about 25,000 genes, and we've found a very small number by genome wide studies, so to have the same genomic regions come up in studies of different diseases is actually pretty interesting," Nature quoted Scott, as saying.
More than 170 million people worldwide are affected by Type 2 diabetes, which is characterized by high levels of blood sugar, caused by the body's inability to utilize insulin to move blood sugar into the cells for energy. Diabetes is a major cause of heart disease and stroke, as well as the most common cause of blindness, kidney failure and amputations in adults.
"The remarkable recent progress in identifying regions of the genome that increase risk to diabetes---from 3 to 16 in only a year---will help us unravel the complex basis diabetes and may suggest new and better tailored methods to prevent or treat this disease.," said U-M's Michael Boehnke.
The scientists aimed to look for differences in the genetic code leading to individual differences in susceptibility to disease. In earlier studies by these groups and others, the researchers found ten genes linked to type 2 diabetes risk.
The study is published in the journal Nature Genetics.