McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Genetic information not so useful for diagnosis of diabetes

Published: April 19, 2013
Sonia Anand
Sonia Anand, associate professor of medicine, clinical epidemiology and biostatistics

Genetic information does not add significantly to the prediction of who will develop type 2 diabetes, even among high risk ethnic groups, new research has found.

The conventional ways of assessing susceptibility for diabetes, using clinical factors such as obesity, physical activity and family history of diabetes, remain superior, says a study by researchers of the Population Health Research Institute of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences.

The study was published today in Diabetes Care, a journal of the American Diabetes Association.

"Adding genetic information in the form of a gene score doesn’t greatly improve our predictions of adult onset diabetes," said Sonia Anand, principal investigator for the study and a professor of medicine at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, and director of its Population Genomics Program. "It is currently far less expensive and more efficient to record ethnicity, measure fasting glucose and to take a family history."

The researchers evaluated the predictive ability of 12 common genetic variants which have been discovered over the past two decades to be associated with type 2 diabetes in white Caucasians. They first evaluated if these same genetic variants were predictors of diabetes in non-white ethnic groups including people of South Asian and Latin American ethnicity. While South Asians had the highest gene score, the predictive ability of this information was consistent between ethnic groups. The investigators report for each additional genetic risk allele, the risk of diabetes increased by 8%. However, when considered together with known clinical predictors of diabetes, there was little incremental benefit of adding in the genetic information.

The study was developed from an international study including 15,500 people of European, South Asian and Latino origin who participated in the EpiDREAM cohort study led by the institute.

The study team included researchers from McMaster and McGill University in Canada as well as others in Britain, South America, and India. The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, and partner funding from several pharmaceutical companies.

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