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New Genetic Markers of Type 2 Diabetes Identified in East Asians

AMHERST — In the largest study of its kind in any non-European population, an international team of researchers, including a UMass Amherst genetic epidemiologist, has identified new genetic links with type 2 diabetes among 433,540 East Asian individuals.

The findings, published in Nature, “provide additional insight into the biological basis of type 2 diabetes,” said co-lead author and statistician Cassandra Spracklen, assistant professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology in the UMass Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences.

Spracklen served as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill during the research. “How diabetes comes about in different populations can occasionally vary in subtle but significant ways,” she says. “With studies like these, we are able to come at that question a little better.”

Ultimately, the goal is to identify potential genetic targets to treat or even cure the chronic metabolic disorder that affects and sometimes debilitates more than 400 million adults worldwide, according to the International Diabetes Federation.

The international team of more than 100 researchers was led by scientists at five institutions in Singapore, the U.S., South Korea, the U.K., and Japan. The research was funded by more than 30 governmental sources and foundations.

“Such a large-scale study would never have been possible without the commitment and dedication to collaboration among so many scientists around the world, especially in Asia,” said Karen Mohlke, professor of Genetics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and one of the study’s senior authors. “The data this team collected and analyzed has provided the research community with much-needed new information about the biological underpinnings of diabetes.”

The other senior authors are Xueling Sim of the National University of Singapore, Dr. Bong-Jo Kim of the National Institute of Health in Cheongjusi, South Korea; Robin Walters of the University of Oxford, U.K.; and Dr. Takashi Kadowaki of the University of Tokyo, Japan.

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