Studying the specific proteins that contribute to complex diseases such as diabetes might be a more effective approach to drug development, according to new research.
Researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health presented their findings at the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) 2014 Annual Meeting in San Diego.
The research claims that breaking down the conditions allows scientists to directly address the metabolic functions that have stopped working correctly.
“In fact, genes that affect the same process at the protein level can end up influencing multiple traits in tandem,” said Dr. Jennifer E. Below, lead author of the study.
For example, the researchers discovered that a group of proteins involved with immune system functions also influences heart health.
“Findings such as this highlight the importance of capturing the array of effects of genes, rather than treating each analysis as independent. Traits don’t exist in silos; they are richly connected and interacting, and we benefit by acknowledging this in our genetic analyses.”
In other words, rather than considering diseases like type 2 diabetes or obesity as a whole, scientists should analyse the individual proteins that lead to the development of diabetes, and aim to understand how the presence of certain proteins links various diseases.
The researchers plan to develop the study by analysing rare genetic variants and patterns of inheritance in families.

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