A gene has been discovered which appears to alter the risk of both type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease (CHD).
The international study, which involved looking at the DNA of more than 250,000 people, was led by a team from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
A new technology called genome-wide association studies (GWAS) was used to learn more about the “genetic architecture” of both chronic health conditions.
The team found 15 new genetic risk factors for diabetes and one for CHD. They also discovered eight specific gene variants which were linked to an altered risk for both conditions.
They also found the association between the different genes goes in one directio, which means those with type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop heart disease after and not the other way round.
“Identifying these gene variants linked to both type 2 diabetes and CHD [coronary heart disease] risk in principle opens up opportunities to lower the risk of both outcomes with a single drug,” said joint senior study author Danish Saleheen.
“Using evidence from human genetics, it should be possible to design drugs for type 2 diabetes that have either beneficial or neutral effects on CHD risk; however it is important to identify and further de-prioritize pathways that decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes but increase the risk of CHD.”
Co-senior author Benjamin F. Voight, an associate professor of genetics, added: “I’m hopeful that with the advanced genomic engineering techniques now available, we’ll be able to quickly convert our human genetics observations into concrete details regarding the molecular mechanisms involved in both heart disease and diabetes.”
People with type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop heart disease compared to those without the condition, but following a healthy, low-carb lifestyle and getting regular exercise can reduce the risk of both conditions occurring and limit their progression.
The findings have been published in the journal Nature Genetics.

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