Norfolk patients needed for genetic study into diabetes

Patients in Norfolk diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are needed to take part in a new study into the genetic causes of the disease.

The Norfolk Diabetes Study, one of the largest of its kind in the world, will allow researchers to identify genetic factors linked to the condition and so help to understand how diabetes develops and how it can be prevented and treated better.

The work is funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Wellcome Trust in collaboration with the Bertram Diabetes Research Unit, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

More than a million people in the UK have type 2 diabetes and the number is rising sharply. Genes play an important role in the development of diabetes, although the mechanism for this is not well understood. 

Over the next few weeks around 6000 people in Norfolk with type 2 diabetes will be invited by their GP to take part in the study by donating a small sample of blood.  The blood will be analysed to discover how small differences in a person’s genetic code might be involved in causing diabetes and related conditions. Diabetes continues to be one of the fastest growing chronic diseases in Norfolk, with 1000 new diagnoses a year locally, and 12,000 people in East Norfolk have the condition.

This information will be compared to similar information already collected on 20,000 people without diabetes.

Dr Liz Young, study lead researcher at MRC Epidemiology Unit, Cambridge, said: “This is a really important research study that will tell us how certain genes are associated with an increased risk of having diabetes in adulthood. We hope that when people are contacted by their GP they will want to help us in this research to learn more about the causes of this major public health problem”

Notes to editors

1. Diabetes mellitus is a condition in which the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high because the body cannot use it properly. Insulin is the hormone that is needed for the cells in the body to convert glucose into energy needed for daily life. Type 2 diabetes develops when either the body does not produce enough insulin (insulin deficiency) or fails to properly use insulin (known as insulin resistance). The disease develops most commonly in older people but is now starting to appear in childhood.  Today in the UK, around 1.5 million people have diabetes, of which around three quarters have type 2 diabetes.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) is a national organisation funded by the UK tax-payer. Its business is medical research aimed at improving human health; everyone stands to benefit from the outputs. The research it supports and the scientists it trains meet the needs of the health services, the pharmaceutical and other health-related industries and the academic world. MRC has funded work which has led to some of the most significant discoveries and achievements in medicine in the UK. About half of the MRC’s expenditure of £450 million is invested in its 40 Institutes, Units and Centres. The remaining half goes in the form of grant support and training awards to individuals and teams in universities and medical schools. Web site at:

2. The Bertram Diabetes Research Unit is an eight-bedded clinical research unit at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital NHS Trust

Wednesday 9th of February 2005 01:00:07 PM