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Worldwide collaborative project: Hadassah plays role in type 2 diabetes breakthrough


The recent discovery using the work of more than 300 scientists from 22 countries found that most of the genetic risk of type 2 diabetes can be attributed to common, shared differences in the genetic code, each of which contributes a small amount to an individual’s risk of disease.

Type 2 diabetes is a growing threat to global health, with one in 10 people either having the disease or predicted to develop it during their lifetime. The disease is a major threat to global public health as deaths from the disease continue to rise rapidly, along with its complications including blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke and amputation.

Type 2 is the most common form of the diabetes; it impacts the body’s ability to regulate glucose (or sugar). In addition to its genetic components, environment and behaviour play major roles in who gets the disease, with obesity, excessive stress and an inactive lifestyle among the contributors. Combined with other risk factors such as smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, people with type 2 diabetes have a much higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

Led by researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, the Welcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and the Massachusetts General Hospital, DNA from 120,000 individuals was used to pinpoint genes and their variants, which influence this disease. This in-depth analysis has helped obtain a more complete picture of the number and characteristics of the genetic variants that influence type 2 diabetes.

The findings have been published today in the prestigious journal Nature, and while also revealing the complexity of the disease there is now hope for identifying several potential targets for new diabetes treatments.

For over the last 15 years Hadassah Professor Benjamin Glaser has led the Middle East charge on type 2 diabetes and its genetics. He says humbly, “when we started working on this, almost 2 decades ago, we naively thought that we could find the genetic cause of diabetes by studying a thousand individuals using a few hundred genetic markers. We now know that we need to study hundreds of thousands of individuals, using millions of genetic markers, just to begin to understand the genetics of this common and devastating disease.” He went on to say, “It has been a true honor to be amongst the worlds best in such a ground-breaking study”. Professor Eyal Mishani could not have been more thrilled, “the collaborative nature of such a project demonstrates the power of the masses and paves the way for many exciting advances in human medicine.”