Scientists now closer to mapping DNA issues in connection with diabetes

by Mark Benson on August 14, 2012

Is DNA mapping the answer?

Over the last couple of years we have seen some interesting developments with regards to the potential treatment of diabetes and in particular diabetes type II, which many believe is a lifestyle condition. This interesting train of developments continues this week with news that scientists have discovered a further 10 gene “hotspots” which they believe are closely connected to the onset of diabetes.

Wellcome Trust research

The Wellcome Trust has been at the forefront of an array of medical research programmes over the last few years and indeed Prof Mark McCarthy from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at Oxford University has today stepped forward with an update. It appears that the scientists have located a further 10 genes which were prevalent in an array of people who had developed diabetes type II.

The initial investigation has taken in the DNA from 35,000 people who currently have type II diabetes and 115,000 people who are in perfect health. The idea is to compare and contrast the DNA of these different parties and to try and identify those which are more prevalent in those with diabetes. The main problem scientists have mentioned time and time again in the past with regards to the treatment of diabetes, both type I and type II, is the fact that the actual DNA breakdown of the condition has been difficult to confirm. However, this week’s announcement brings the total number of specific genes highlighted to date to 60.

Where are these genes located?

It is interesting to see that the scientists have located a number of specific genes prevalent in type II diabetes sufferers in a variety of different areas of the body. These take in a variety of different processes including cell growth, division and ageing and in particular a number of genes have been located in the pancreas. This is the area of the body where natural insulin is produced and which is impacted by type II diabetes with the body unable to control the level of sugar in the blood.

Slowly but surely scientists have now located a number of specific areas of the body which appear to have a knock-on effect to the creation of insulin. One interesting development is the number of different genes which control other sub-layers of genes and the fact that if the more influential genes can be synthetically adjusted or controlled then this could have a very successful knock-on effect across the body. It is highly likely that further gene groups will be discovered in due course and then hopefully this scientific data can then be transferred to the research and development laboratories with the eventual goal of creating a cure for diabetes type II and hopefully diabetes type I.

Does the DNA mapping help?

There is no doubt that DNA mapping of certain conditions has proved to be extremely beneficial in the past and will play more of a role in research and development going forward. It is this initial understanding of the underlying condition itself and which DNA and gene triggers bring on diabetes type I and diabetes type II which will allow scientists more scope with regards to treatments and cures. Scientists have already completed the total DNA profile of many individuals and it is simply a case of comparing those with specific illnesses and those seen as perfectly healthy.

Slowly but surely the mapping of DNA is becoming more and more efficient and more and more accurate. Research companies around the world have invested billions of dollars in this particular area because it gives them an understanding of what triggers specific conditions. Hopefully in due course scientists will be able to switch off or switch on specific genes which could have a knock-on effect to other areas of the body and hopefully “cure” specific condition.

The impact of type II diabetes

In simple terms the impact of type II diabetes can be visible in an array of different conditions which include heart disease, stroke, nerve damage and in some extreme circumstances blindness. Type II diabetes is the condition where the body is no longer able to control the level of sugar in the blood causing potentially fatal problems in some sufferers. It is believed that around 3 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes in the UK although a further 850,000 may yet be undiagnosed. While it is not the most difficult condition to test for it is not something which is regularly tested for as standard.

While the impact upon the lives of sufferers of diabetes is there for all to see, and can potentially be fatal, there is also a growing burden on the healthcare system. The NHS is already under financial strain as the cost of treatments continues to grow and the cost of drugs can often skyrocket. The ability to recognise diabetes, both diabetes type I and diabetes type II, at the earliest opportunity will potentially save millions of pounds in the long run. Diet programs can be brought on board, obesity can be tackled and other areas of everyday life will become simpler.

Is diabetes type II curable?

There is some confusion with regards to diabetes type II and whether it is in fact hereditary as many people believe or something of a lifestyle condition. Whatever the truth, there is no doubt that in theory Type II diabetes is curable and the fact that scientists are now closer to understanding the DNA of the condition makes this a real possibility in the medium to longer term. Once the total DNA profile of diabetes type II sufferers has been mapped then we should see the various gene switches become more obvious.


The fact that scientists at the Wellcome Trust have located a further 10 genes which they believe are strongly connected with the condition Type II diabetes is a major step forward. This should eventually allow scientists to fully understand the condition, which genes bring on the condition and which genes they need to switch on or switch off to tackle the condition. It seems as though there is light at the end of the tunnel although it may still be some way off.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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