NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The National Institutes of Health plans to spend as much as $20 million over the next five years to fund five or six genome-wide association studies aimed at identifying genetic links to type 2 diabetes found in multiple ethnic groups in the US, the agency said last week.
As part of the effort, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease last week issued a request for applications for research projects designed to confirm and characterize the genetic associations. It said it wants to team with the National Human Genome Research Institute to support the investigators
The resulting Multiethnic Study of Type 2 Diabetes Genes program will give researchers up to $500,000 per year for as many as five years in order to develop the research projects.
The NIDDK will support researchers with expertise in human genetics and type 2 diabetes that intend to plan, oversee, and analyze experiments, assemble samples from multiple ethnic groups, and isolate DNA for studies through a collaboration with the NIDDK's existing repository.
Participating researchers will have access to sequencing resources through a collaboration with the NHGRI and its Sequencing Centers, and will receive additional genotyping support.
According to the NIH, GWAS studies so far have identified 18 SNPs linked to the disease, and other GWAS are "likely to identify additional associated genes." In some of these SNPs there is a coding sequence that suggests it is likely to be a variant that could impact diabetes, but in most cases the associated SNP is just a marker for a functional variant that has not yet been determined.
According to the NIH, the "best way to identify the potential functional variant is to sequence the region around the SNP in multiple individuals from multiple populations." This method can be used to identify other variants that could help pin down the genetic target.
Funding will support multiple researchers with access to well-characterized samples from individuals with and without diabetes from multiple racial and ethnic populations in the US. The researchers will collaborate to design experiments to characterize functional variants that can be identified by an associated SNP from a GWAS study. They also will identify appropriate samples for further sequencing and/or genotyping and conduct the appropriate analysis.