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Gene linked to more effective diabetes treatment

People with type 2 diabetes, who have variants of a certain gene, respond better to the diabetes drugs known as sulphonylureas and are over three times more likely to achieve good blood glucose level targets than people without the variants who take those drugs, according to new research funded by leading health charity Diabetes UK.

The results of this observational study mean that people with type 2 diabetes taking sulphonylureas, who have the gene variants may be less likely to develop devastating diabetes complications such as heart disease, kidney disease and stroke.

The research, carried out at the Biomedical Research Institute at the University of Dundee, looked at 1,073 people with type 2 diabetes who had been treated with sulphonylureas for up to 18 months.

The study found that the six people in every 100 people with two variants of the gene CYP2C9 were 3.4 times more likely to achieve their blood glucose target of less than 7% compared to people who did not have those variants.

Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Diabetes UK, said: “This research is important because it demonstrates the effect that genetic variations could have in determining treatments for people with type 2 diabetes.

“The CYP2C9 gene produces an enzyme which breaks down sulphonylureas in the liver. In people with variations in this gene the enzyme is less active, which could explain their improved response to sulphonylureas.

“This study adds to the pharmacogenetic field of research which may in time lead to better tailored prescriptions for people with type 2 diabetes so that treatment is optimised in light of a person’s genetic make-up. This could in turn eventually lead to a reduction in the amount of money that is spent on ineffective diabetes drug treatments by the NHS.”

Diabetes UK