Heart disease and diabetes are two of the most common life threatening medical conditions prevalent worldwide.
But there is good news from this front. Soon, popping a single pill could prevent both heart disease and diabetes if the estimates of a team of scientists is anything to go by.
The team, led by researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, conducted a huge study of genetic data. It found that both the conditions are linked by the same genes.
They first looked into the causes of Type 2 diabetes (T2D) and second clarified how T2D and coronary heart disease (CHD) are linked.
The researchers examined genome sequence information of more than 250,000 people and uncovered 16 new diabetes genetic risk factors and one new CHD genetic risk factor.
It then showed that most of the sites on the genome known to be associated with higher diabetes risk are also associated with higher CHD risk. For eight of these sites, the researchers were able to identify a specific gene variant that influences risk for both diseases.
The shared genetic risk factors affect biological pathways including immunity, cell proliferation, and heart development.
These rulings add to the basic scientific understanding of both the major diseases thereby identifying potential targets for future drugs.
"Identifying these gene variants linked to both type 2 diabetes and CHD risk in principle opens up opportunities to lower the risk of both outcomes with a single drug," said co-senior author Danish Saleheen.
"From a drug development perspective, it would make sense to focus on those pathways that are most strongly linked to both diseases," Saleheen said.
Saleheen, co-senior author Benjamin F. Voight and their colleagues now plan further investigations of the dual-risk genes uncovered in the study. The researchers also hope to learn more about the biology of the newly discovered dual-risk genes by studying people who have mutations in those genes, Saleheen said.
The study is published in Nature Genetics.
(With Agency inputs)