Key Publications

This high quality international resource is already helping to define and characterize genetic factors related to type 2 diabetes and a rapidly growing number of published papers are leading to other research being carried out on diabetes and related conditions.

A good example is the discovery of a common variant in the FTO - fat mass and obesity associated - gene which is associated with BMI – Body Mass Index - and predisposes to childhood and adult obesity. The initial discovery of this gene for obesity and type 2 diabetes resulted from an international collaborative effort which included the Tayside Case Control Study as a pivotal component and was published in Science in 2007. Professor Palmer’s latest study of the FTO gene, published late last year, provoked a media storm when it found that Tayside primary-school children with the common form of the gene ate 100 more calories in an eating test than other children. The research, which was published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, measured the metabolism, fat composition, exercise and eating behaviours of 100 primary school children in Tayside. It found that children with the FTO gene were more likely to choose higher calorie food. The results suggested that the FTO gene seemed to affect what the children were choosing to eat. More work needs to be done to find out why this is the case.

A further example is a study also involving the Tayside Case Control Study which has found a genetic link between sleep patterns and type 2 diabetes. Too little sleep has been linked with susceptibility to type 2 diabetes. Melatonin is an important hormone involved in determining sleeping patterns and is used to treat jet lag, but has never been previously linked to type 2 diabetes. In a recent edition of Nature Genetics, we have described how changes in the melatonin receptor affect susceptibility to type 2 diabetes.

Work on pharmacogenetics, the study on how genetic information may be used to personalize medicine, has shown that people with a particular gene variant respond poorly to one of the most common types of diabetes treatment, sulphonylureas. Although this genetic test has now been made commercially available by other groups further investigation is needed to determine how we might improve the test using much more genetic information before we use it in clinical practice in the UK.

The Tayside Diabetes Genetics Research Team is also investigating the genes involved in defining whether an individual can tolerate the use of statins. The research has already shown that there is a gene which predisposes individuals to having complications such as muscle pain and damage. The initial results have led to a large-scale effort to find these genes in statin response and intolerance.