Page last updated at 09:35 GMT, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 10:35 UK

Diabetes gene link treatment hope

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Scientists hope the study could help to personalise treatments

Scientists have found that diabetics with a certain gene variant respond better to a particular treatment than those without it.

They discovered that a group of drugs, known as sulphonylureas, were more than three times as effective in Type 2 diabetes sufferers with the variant.

Sulphonylureas are used to correct blood glucose levels and can help with complications like heart disease.

The study assessed 1,073 people in Tayside with diabetes over 18 months.

The findings, carried out by the Diabetes Research Group at the University of Dundee, could help doctors to decide what drugs to prescribe in future.

According to the research, six people in every 100 with two variants of the gene CYP2C9, were 3.4 times more likely to achieve their blood glucose target of less than 7% compared to people who did not have those variants.

This study adds to the pharmacogenetic field of research which may in time lead to better tailored prescriptions for people with Type 2 diabetes so that treatment is optimised in light of a person's genetic make-up
Dr Iain Frame
Diabetes UK

Dr Iain Frame, director of research at Diabetes UK, said: "This research is important because it demonstrates the effect that genetic variations could have in determining treatments for people with Type 2 diabetes.

"The CYP2C9 gene produces an enzyme which breaks down sulphonylureas in the liver.

"In people with variations in this gene the enzyme is less active, which could explain their improved response to sulphonylureas.

"This study adds to the pharmacogenetic field of research which may in time lead to better tailored prescriptions for people with Type 2 diabetes so that treatment is optimised in light of a person's genetic make-up.

"This could in turn eventually lead to a reduction in the amount of money that is spent on ineffective diabetes drug treatments by the NHS."

'Personalise medicine'

There are currently about 2.25 million people with Type 2 diabetes in the UK.

About 550,000 of them are treated with a sulphonylurea.

Diabetes UK recommends that people with diabetes aim to reach a blood glucose target of under 6.5%, or under 7.5% if they are at risk of severe hypos.

Dr Ewan Pearson, who led the study, said: "Variants in the CYP2C9 gene have been known to effect blood levels of the sulphonylurea drugs for many years, but this is the first time that anyone has shown that this impacts on response to diabetes drugs.

"This is the first study to show such a large effect of an individual's genes in response to diabetes drugs used in Type 2 diabetes, and is a significant step on the path towards being able to use genetics to personalise medicine for those with Type 2 diabetes."



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