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  • 4/29/2007

New Genes Raise Diabetes Risk

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US and Finnish scientists have identified four new specific genetic variations linked to an increased risk of diabetes in adults, according to a report published Thursday in the United States.

"This achievement represents a major milestone in our battle against diabetes," said Elias Zerhouni, director of the US federal National Institutes of Health in a summary of the study, which is to be published Friday in the journal Science.

"It will accelerate efforts to understand the genetic risk factors for this disease, as well as explore how these genetic factors interact with each other and with lifestyle factors."

Diabetics suffer from a deficiency of insulin, the hormone that helps process sugar in the blood. It can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and other illnesses as well as blindness.

Obesity and poor diet are seen as major causes of the disease, which has struck rich countries on a massive scale in the past 20 years. Some 21 million Americans are estimated to suffer from so-called Type 2 diabetes, and more than 200 million people worldwide, the summary report said.

A family history of the disease a link to the parental genes is also a factor.

Another doctor involved in the study, Griffin Rodgers, said in the report that the findings may help in developing new drugs for preventing or treating Type 2 diabetes.

Research such as this latest study by the joint US-Finnish team based on tests carried out on Finnish subjects, "is opening the door to the era of personalized medicine," said Zerhouni.

It brings to 10 the number of specific genetic patterns to be linked to a risk of diabetes.

"Our current one-size-fits-all approach will soon give way to more individualized strategies based on each person"s unique genetic make-up," Zerhouni said.

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