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CSIR study to track causes, mechanism of type 2 diabetes

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research office in New Delhi. India has the highest number of diabetics in the world—50.8 million—and type 2 is the more common and complicated avatar of the condition. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint (Priyanka Parashar/Mint)Premium
The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research office in New Delhi. India has the highest number of diabetics in the world—50.8 million—and type 2 is the more common and complicated avatar of the condition. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint
(Priyanka Parashar/Mint)

Study to also explore relationship among diabetes and related conditions such as cardiovascular disease, obesity

New Delhi: The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has embarked on an ambitious, India-wide quest to determine, at the level of genes, the causes and mechanism of type 2 diabetes in Indians.

India has the highest number of diabetics in the world—50.8 million—and type 2 is the more common and complicated avatar of the condition, affecting almost nine out of every 10 diabetics.

While no government figures exist, diabetes cost India about 13,000 crore, according to a 2007 study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, mostly from lost earnings and productivity.

Despite the prevalence of the condition, key questions such as the extent to which genes predispose or exacerbate diabetes are largely unresolved.

Moreover, the relationship among diabetes and related conditions such as cardiovascular disease, obesity and hypertension remains unclear, and this is an angle the Indian investigators plan to explore.

The Indian Diabetes Consortium, a 100 crore initiative that involves researchers and physicians from centres such as the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, a CSIR laboratory, and hospitals such as the All India Institute of Medical Sciences will compare the genomes of nearly 22,000 Indians for variations in specific locations of their DNA.

Genome-wide association studies harness computers to see how different the genomes of diabetics look from those who don’t have the condition.

“Diabetes is not the result of one or two genes and, as of today, not more than 10% of the cause of type 2 diabetes can be explained by genes," said Dwaipayan Bharadwaj, coordinator of the project. “We hope to find new mechanisms, possible drug targets etc., via this project."

Currently, around 40 genes are suspected to play a role in type 2 diabetes, with Bharadwaj and his team already having zeroed in a handful of genes that may be linked to childhood obesity.

People with type 2 diabetes cannot use the insulin they produce effectively, but can often manage their condition through exercise and diet, although many require medication, including insulin, to properly control blood glucose levels. It is estimated that 60% or more of instance of type 2 diabetes can be prevented.

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes represent a serious health threat.

Diabetes claims four million lives every year and is a leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke and amputation, according to a report by the Belgium-based International Diabetes Federation (IDF).

The rarer type 1 diabetes (which accounts for just around one-tenth of the total cases of diabetes) arises from insulin deficiency, usually because of a disorder in the pancreas where this enzyme is produced.

IDF adds that diabetes now affects 7% of the world’s adult population. The regions with the highest comparative prevalence rates are North America, where 10.2% of the adult population has diabetes, followed by the Middle East and North Africa region with 9.3%. The regions with the highest number of people living with diabetes are the western Pacific, where some 77 million people have diabetes, and South East Asia with 59 million.

India’s 50.8 million is followed by China with 43.2 million, the US (26.8 million), the Russian Federation (9.6 million), Brazil (7.6 million), Germany (7.5 million), Pakistan (7.1 million), Japan (7.1 million), Indonesia (7 million) and Mexico (6.8 million).

The links between diabetes and genetics are strong and genome studies are critical to understanding the disease, said M.N. Ghosh, an endocrinologist.

“While it’s undeniable that exercise and proper diet may be enough to control diabetes, understanding the disease is necessary for improved public health policy," he said.

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