Surprises in our genes!

The journals Nature and Nature Genetics recently published the results of a study that will undoubtedly hold its place in history. The Wellcome Trust study, the largest and most successful academic collaboration to date, was conducted by fifty leading research groups and two hundred scientists from dozens of British institutions. The researchers analysed the blood of 17,000 people in search of genetic differences.

The journals Nature and Nature Genetics recently published the results of a study that will undoubtedly hold its place in history. The Wellcome Trust study, the largest and most successful academic collaboration to date, was conducted by fifty leading research groups and two hundred scientists from dozens of British institutions. The researchers analysed the blood of 17,000 people in search of genetic differences.

The goal of this study was to better understand the genetic behind seven of the most common diseases in the world. These diseases are: bipolar mood disorders; hypertension; Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes; coronary heart disease; rheumatoid arthritis; and Chron’s disease. The blood of 2,000 patients suffering from each of these diseases was compared to the blood of 3,000 healthy volunteers.

The researchers analysed thousands of DNA markers in order to identify frequent genetic differences in the human genome. The first surprise: many genes identified were located in regions of the genome that scientists did not think were related to the diseases. Another surprising discovery: a previously unknown gene is common to both Type 1 diabetes and Crohn’s disease, suggesting a possible similarity in their biological processes.

From one surprise to another, the scientists noted that a process called autophagy (the digestion by cells of unwanted materials like bacteria) seems greatly important in the onset of Crohn’s disease.

Finally, several genetic regions that can increase the risk of suffering from Type 1 diabetes were also identified.

Preliminary results already published stated the following: there is a gene for obesity; there are three new genes linked to Type 2 diabetes; and there is a genetic region associated to coronary disease.

According to the lead researcher of the Wellcome Trust study, this successful endeavour has enabled them to learn much more on the genetic of these diseases in the last 12 months, than all that has been discovered over the last 15 years.

Because they will better understand how these diseases arise, scientists will be better equipped to identify the people that are more at risk and, as years go by, they can develop more effective and personalized treatments.

The human genome is complex and still full of mysteries. But thanks to research studies like this one, little by little, it will reveal its secrets.

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