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Experts Question the Benefits of Identifying Genes for Type 2 Diabetes

Posted: Wednesday, September 13, 2006

At the same time researchers from a British medical school laid claim to genetic research that could help to prevent the illness.

Even knowing what genes effect the onset of type 2 diabetes and finding medications to influence them, without lifestyle modification they would not be very effective.

Dr Timothy Frayling and colleagues at the Peninsula Medical School, Plymouth, UK, are examining thousands of DNA samples from across the UK.

Dr Frayling said: "We hope that the outcome of our research will result in better mainstream prediction for type 2 diabetes, which will in turn reduce the number of people suffering from the disease, and reduce the cost of treatment and intervention to the NHS."

However, public health experts warn in the British Medical Journal that such claims are misleading.

Dr Cecile Janssens and colleagues of the Erasmus MC University Medical Centre, the Netherlands believe the media coverage surrounding a recent genetic discovery raised unrealistic expectations.

A variant of the TCF7L2 gene was linked with type 2 diabetes, offering "a potential new insight into the pathobiology of diabetes", they write. But they add that it is wrong to suggest the discovery will lead directly to disease prevention.

The authors explain that 45 per cent of the population would need a 100 per cent effective intervention to prevent 21 per cent of diabetes cases. Such figures would not be a great enough incentive for lifestyle change, they suggest.

"Raising unrealistic expectations - even inadvertently - could distract attention from what can be done by applying what we already know to prevent diabetes and its complications," they conclude.



Source: Diabetes In Control: Janssens, A. C. J. W. et al. Editorial: Predictive genetic testing for type 2 diabetes. British Medical Journal, Vol. 333, September 9, 2006, pp. 509-10

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