An international team of scientists working on the largest study to date to look at DNA and type 2 diabetes say they have found 12 new gene links that offer important clues to how the chronic disease works.


The consortium of researchers from across Europe, the United States and Canada said their findings would not only improve understanding of what lies behind type 2 diabetes, but suggest new biological processes that can be explored as possible targets for new medicines.


“The signals we have identified provide important clues to the biological basis of type 2 diabetes. The challenge will be to turn these genetic findings into better ways of treating and preventing the condition,” said Mark McCarthy of the center for human genetics at Oxford University, who led the study.


The identification of 12 new genes brings the total number of genetic regions known to be linked with type 2 diabetes to 38. The international team, whose work was published in the journal Nature yesterday, said the genes they found tend to be involved in the working of pancreatic cells that produce insulin and in the control of insulin’s action in the body.

McCarthy said one particularly important theme of their findings was that several of the genes seem to be important in controlling the number of pancreatic beta cells a person has.

Beta cells are the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, and McCarthy said this result would help settle a long-standing puzzle about the role of beta cell numbers in type 2 diabetes.