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Diabetes and heart disease risk are linked by the same genes, scientists say

Diabetes and heart disease risk are linked by the same genes, scientists say
From Global News - September 6, 2017

Global health officials are grappling with epidemics of Type 2 diabetes and heart diseaseand now a major study is warning that a genetic connection may be at play linking the two chronic diseases.

Scientists out of the University of Pennsylvanias School of Medicine say that theyve uncovered 16 new genetic risk factors for diabetes along with one new genetic risk factor for heart disease, shedding light on the onset of the two ailments.

The medical community is already saying that diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease but theyve never really understood the biological pathways tying the two together.

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Now, theyre suggesting that genes known to be tied to a higher diabetes risk are also linked to a higher risk of heart disease.

In eight of the 16 genes they zeroed in on, they found a specific gene variant that tampers with risk for both conditions.

What could these findings mean? The scientists say it could pave the way to treating both of the chronic diseases at the same time.

Identifying gene variants linked to both Type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease risk, in principle, opens up opportunities to lower the risk of both outcomes with a single drug, study co-author, Dr. Danish Saleheen, said in a university statement.

Using evidence from human genetics, it should be possible to design drugs for Type 2 diabetes that have either beneficial or neutral effects on coronary heart disease risk, Saleheen said.

READ MORE: Stroke more than doubles risk of dementia, Heart and Stroke Foundation warns

Saleheens team pored over the genetic data for more than 250,000 people from South Asian, East Asian and European descent. With the data in tow, they found the 16 new genes tied to diabetes, while they confirmed most of the already-established sites in the DNA that are tied to diabetes risk, too.

In their study, they found eight specific gene variants that ended up being strongly linked to risk of developing both diseases.

Turns out, theres even a pattern: genes tied to Type 2 diabetes risk are much more likely to be associated with heart disease risk, but not the other way around.

At least 68 per cent of people 65 and older with diabetes die from some sort of heart disease and 16 per cent die from stroke, the American Heart Association says.

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