• Queen Mary University of London
  • Barts Health NHS
  • Bradford NHS
  • Manchester Uni

Genetics of type 2 diabetes mellitus in young and lean South Asians

Type 2 diabetes is a condition that disproportionately affects people of south Asian origin, compared to White European people. South Asians with type 2 diabetes may also develop the condition at younger ages and lower body weight, compared to White Europeans. The early onset of type 2 diabetes places an enormous burden on affected individuals and families, reducing quality of life and and healthy life expectancy. Living with type 2 diabetes is commonly linked to developing other medical problems, kidney, eye or heart disease, depression, and anxiety. Living with and managing these multiple conditions is debilitating.

Type 2 diabetes has multiple causes, and a person’s genetic makeup has a strong influence on whether they will develop the disease. Recent studies show that the genetic causes of diabetes in south Asians show differences to those seen in people from other backgrounds. These genetic differences are thought to contribute to the specific way in which type 2 diabetes develops in some south Asians (e.g. genetic changes associated with low insulin production are a common feature in south Asians and are associated with lower body weight).

This project will investigate the genetic basis of type 2 diabetes risk in South Asians, and specifically, why south Asians develop diabetes when they are young and lean. By working with Genes & Health data and combining this with another large study originating in India (called INSPIRED), we will be able to address the lack of diversity in current research studies and build new knowledge about the genetic causes of type 2 diabetes. By studying south Asians in both migrant (Genes & Health) and non-migrant (INSPIRED) studies, we may also be able to unpick the complex overlap of genetic and lifestyle risk factors that can cause the condition. By describing both the unique features of South Asian type 2 diabetes, and its genetic causes, we hope to be able to find ways to better understand who is at risk of the condition and to personalise approaches to the detection and treatment of the condition.