Study shows genetics could help diagnose diabetes in Indians

Hyderabad: Recent research has concluded a new way of using genetics to diagnose diabetes could pave the way for better diagnosis and treatment in Indians.

Misdiagnosis of diabetes could be an issue in India because of features of diabetes in Indians which might vary from the standard western textbooks. Until recently, it was widely believed that type 1 diabetes appeared in children and adolescents, and type 2 diabetes in obese and older (typically after 45 years of age).

However, recent findings have shown that type 1 diabetes can occur later in life, while type 2 diabetes is on the rise among younger and thinner Indians. Distinguishing the two types of diabetes has therefore become more complex. The two types follow different treatment regimes with the former requiring lifelong insulin injections and the latter being managed with diet or tablet treatment. Misclassification of the type of diabetes may lead to sub-standard diabetes care and possible complications.

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A new publication conducted between researchers at the KEM Hospital, Pune, CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) Hyderabad, and the UK-based University of Exeter shows that a genetic risk score is effective in diagnosing type 1 diabetes in Indians.

The genetic risk score, developed by the University of Exeter, considers detailed genetic information known to increase the chance of developing type 1 diabetes. The score may be used at the time of diabetes diagnosis to help decide if someone has type 1 diabetes.

Up to now, the bulk of research in this field has been conducted in European populations. Now in a paper published in Scientific Reports, researchers have analysed whether the European risk score is effective in diagnosing type 1 diabetes in Indians. The team studied people from Pune.

The team analysed 262 people with type 1 diabetes, 352 people with type 2 diabetes, and 334 people without diabetes. All were of Indian (Indo-European) ancestry. Outcomes from the Indian populations were compared with those of Europeans from the Welcome Trust Case Control Consortium study.

Authors also found genetic differences between the populations which mean the test could be further improved to enhance outcomes for Indian populations.

Dr GR Chandak, Chief Scientist leading the study at the CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), said: “It’s interesting to note that different SNPs are more abundant among Indian and European patients. This opens up the possibility that environmental factors might be interacting with these SNPs to cause the disease.”

Given the genetic diversity of India’s population, the study’s results need to be validated in other ethnic groups of the country too. Dr Rakesh K Mishra, Director of the CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), said: “Since more than 20 per cent of people with type 1 diabetes below the age of 15 years of age are in India, developing a genetic test kit to reliably detect type 1 from type 2 diabetes holds a lot of significance for the country.”

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