ISLAMABAD: Researchers have found several new risk loci for both type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Using genome data from more than 250,000 people, scientists have identified gene variants that appear to alter the risk of both type 2 diabetes and heart disease - two leading causes of death and disease. They also suggest that the discovery could lead to treatments that use one drug to protect against both illnesses.
The international team, which was led by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, accounts for the findings in a paper published in the journal Nature Genetics.
Around 95 percent of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes, which is a disease that develops when the body makes enough insulin but its cells lose the ability to use it to absorb blood sugar and convert it into energy.
The other 5 percent of diabetes cases are type 1 diabetes, which is a disease that develops when the body does not make enough insulin.
If not controlled, diabetes results in high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia. This can lead to serious health problems such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and vision impairment.
In the United States, where it is the seventh leading cause of death, there are around 30.3 million adults with diabetes, including 25 percent of people who do not know that they have it.
Diabetes and heart disease
The number of adult diabetes cases has more than tripled in the U.S. in the past 20 years, primarily as a result of an aging population and rising levels of obesity.
Worldwide, the prevalence of diabetes among adults has gone up from 4.7 percent in 1980 to 8.5 percent in 2014.
Diabetes is a known risk factor for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S., where around 630,000 people die of the disease every year.
Over half of people who die from heart disease in the U.S. die of coronary heart disease, which is caused by coronary artery disease, a condition wherein the heart's arteries get narrower due to plaque buildup.
In their study paper, the researchers explain that patients with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to die of coronary heart disease as patients without it. However, the genetic and molecular mechanisms that lead to this higher risk are poorly understood.
Due to a relatively new technology known as genome-wide association studies (GWAS), scientists now have a good grasp of the "genetic architecture" of coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
GWAS is a sequencing method that can rapidly scan the genomes - or complete sets of DNA - of thousands of people. Scientists use it to find sites, or "loci," in the genome that are linked to disease.