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Identifying key genes in Type 2 diabetes

Project summary

Use of functional genomics to identify the causal genes at two novel Type 2 diabetes loci

Scientists have found over 90 regions of our DNA that are associated with an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, but they haven’t managed to zero in on the specific genes within those regions that are responsible. This project aims to focus on a few genes in particular, to examine their effects on beta cells and identify whether they are key in causing Type 2 diabetes. This could lead to the development of new therapies that stop the loss of functioning insulin-producing beta cells in people with the condition.

Background to research

Since 2007, almost 500 genes (in over 90 regions of our DNA) have been associated with an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. Identifying key genes that play a prominent role in the development of the condition is the next step for researchers. Professor Rutter’s team have identified a number of genes that appear to play a role in the function of pancreatic beta cells.

Research aims

This research aims to establish whether five particular genes play a key role in the development of Type 2 diabetes. The team will study the function of the genes in human islets (clusters of insulin-producing cells) and animal models of diabetes, by deleting them one at a time. They will look at the effect the genes have on insulin secretion, beta cell survival and growth, and the regulation of blood glucose levels. Once they have established whether any of the genes are key, they’ll look closer at potential mistakes within the genes that could result in an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

If successful, this project will identify specific genetic changes that influence insulin secretion and, therefore, increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Identifying key genes could enable the development of new treatments that target those genes, slowing or stopping the progression of Type 2 diabetes.

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