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Six new genetic variants linked to type 2 diabetes discovered in South Asians

August 30, 2011
Imperial College London
Scientists have identified six new genetic variants associated with type 2 diabetes in South Asians.

An international team of researchers led by Imperial College London has identified six new genetic variants associated with type 2 diabetes in South Asians. The findings, published in Nature Genetics, give scientists new leads in the search for diagnostic markers and drug targets to prevent and treat this major disease.

People of South Asian ancestry are up to four times more likely than Europeans to develop type 2 diabetes, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Around 55 million South Asian people are affected worldwide, and the number is projected to rise to 80 million by 2030.

This new study is the first to focus on genes underlying diabetes amongst people originating from South Asia (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh). The researchers from around the world examined the DNA of 18,731 people with type 2 diabetes and 39,856 healthy controls. The genomes of the participants were analysed to look for locations where variations were more common in those with diabetes. The results identified six positions where differences of a single letter in the genetic code were associated with type 2 diabetes, suggesting that nearby genes have a role in the disease.

Dr John Chambers, the senior author of the study, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, said: "Type 2 diabetes is more common in South Asian populations than any other ethnic group, but the reason for this increased risk is unclear. Although lifestyle factors such as unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and obesity are important causes of diabetes in South Asians, these are only part of the explanation. Genetic factors have been widely considered to play a role in the increased risk of type 2 diabetes in Asians, but to date have not been systematically explored in this population."

"Our study identifies six new genetic variants linked to type 2 diabetes in South Asians. Our findings give important new insight into the genes underlying of diabetes in this population, which in the long term might lead to new treatments to prevent diabetes."

Professor Jaspal S Kooner, from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, the lead author for the study said: "This is the first genome-wide association study in South Asians, who comprise one-quarter of the globe's population, and who carry a high burden of the disease and its complications, including heart attack and stroke. We have shown that the genetic variants discovered here in South Asians also exist and contribute to diabetes in Europeans. Our studies in Asians and European populations highlight the importance and gain in examining the same problem in different ethnic groups."

The collaboration included leading researchers from Imperial College London, University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, the University of Birmingham, and the Peninsular Medical School in the UK, as well National University of Singapore, University of Mauritius, Baker IDI (Australia), Mohan Diabetes Centre (India), University of Kelaniya (Sri Lanka), NCGM (Japan), University of Houston (USA), Aga Khan University (Pakistan) and other institutions.

The research was funded by the Imperial Comprehensive Biomedical Research Centre award from the National Institute of Health Research; the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and other sources.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Imperial College London. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Jaspal S Kooner, Danish Saleheen, Xueling Sim, Joban Sehmi, Weihua Zhang, Philippe Frossard, Latonya F Been, Kee-Seng Chia, Antigone S Dimas, Neelam Hassanali, Tazeen Jafar, Jeremy B M Jowett, Xinzhing Li, Venkatesan Radha, Simon D Rees, Fumihiko Takeuchi, Robin Young, Tin Aung, Abdul Basit, Manickam Chidambaram, Debashish Das, Elin Grunberg, Åsa K Hedman, Zafar I Hydrie, Muhammed Islam, Chiea-Chuen Khor, Sudhir Kowlessur, Malene M Kristensen, Samuel Liju, Wei-Yen Lim, David R Matthews, Jianjun Liu, Andrew P Morris, Alexandra C Nica, Janani M Pinidiyapathirage, Inga Prokopenko, Asif Rasheed, Maria Samuel, Nabi Shah, A Samad Shera, Kerrin S Small, Chen Suo, Ananda R Wickremasinghe, Tien Yin Wong, Mingyu Yang, Fan Zhang, Goncalo R Abecasis, Anthony H Barnett, Mark Caulfield, Panos Deloukas, Timothy M Frayling, Philippe Froguel, Norihiro Kato, Prasad Katulanda, M Ann Kelly, Junbin Liang, Viswanathan Mohan, Dharambir K Sanghera, James Scott, Mark Seielstad, Paul Z Zimmet, Paul Elliott, Yik Ying Teo, Mark I McCarthy, John Danesh, E Shyong Tai, John C Chambers. Genome-wide association study in individuals of South Asian ancestry identifies six new type 2 diabetes susceptibility loci. Nature Genetics, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/ng.921

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Imperial College London. "Six new genetic variants linked to type 2 diabetes discovered in South Asians." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 August 2011. <>.
Imperial College London. (2011, August 30). Six new genetic variants linked to type 2 diabetes discovered in South Asians. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 25, 2024 from
Imperial College London. "Six new genetic variants linked to type 2 diabetes discovered in South Asians." ScienceDaily. (accessed February 25, 2024).

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