Use of ethnically numerous cohorts in diabetes research ‘generates higher outcomes’


If genetic variation by origin is not taken into account, it will affect the ability to accurately diagnose diabetes, the researchers said.

Ethnic diversity in a large-scale study meant that more regions of the genome were identified that were associated with type 2 diabetes-related traits than if the research had only been done on Europeans, scientists suggested.

Experts said the results showed that expanding the research to include different ancestors produced more and better results, and ultimately benefited global patient care.

It is estimated that almost 87% of this type of genomic research has been carried out on Europeans.

This has meant that the way these findings are implemented may not best apply to people with non-European ancestry, the researchers said.

The Magic international collaboration, comprised of more than 400 global scientists, conducted a genome-wide association meta-analysis conducted by the University of Exeter.

They analyzed data in a variety of cohorts, including more than 280,000 people without diabetes, examining glycemic characteristics.

These are used to diagnose diabetes and to monitor sugar and insulin levels in the blood.

The researchers enrolled 30% of the total cohort of people of East Asian, Hispanic, Afro-American, South Asian, and sub-Saharan African descent.

In doing so, they discovered 24 more loci – or regions of the genome – associated with glycemic traits than if they had done the research on Europeans alone.

University of Exeter Professor Ines Barroso, who led the research, said, “Type 2 diabetes is an increasingly important global health challenge, with most of the largest increases occurring outside of Europe.

“Although there are many genetic factors common to different countries and cultures, our research shows that they differ in ways that we need to understand.

“It is important to ensure that we can deliver a precise approach to diabetes medicine that optimizes treatment and care for all.”

The researchers found that while some loci were not discovered in all ancestors, they were still useful for gathering information about the glycemic trait of those ancestors.

Co-author Cassandra Spracklen, assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, said, “Our results are important because we use genetic scores to weigh a person’s risk of diabetes.

“We know that scores developed solely on people of one race don’t work well on people of another race.

“This is important as healthcare is increasingly moving towards a more precise approach.

“If we don’t account for genetic variation by origin, it will affect our ability to accurately diagnose diabetes.”

The first author Dr. Ji Chen of the University of Exeter said, “We discovered 24 additional regions of the genome by including cohorts that were more ethnically diverse than we would have if we had limited our work to Europeans.

“Aside from the moral arguments for ensuring that research reflects the world’s population, our work shows that this approach leads to better results.”

The study was published in Nature Genetics.