FRIDAY, Feb. 5, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists have completed a map of areas of the human genome that control which genes are switched on or off in type 2 diabetes, a finding that may advance understanding of the genetic basis of this and other common diseases.
"Most of the human genome is uncharted territory -- entire stretches of sequence with no clear function or purpose," study co-senior author Jason Lieb, an associate professor of biology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said in a news release.
"In fact, the majority of the DNA sequences associated with disease found thus far reside in the middle of nowhere. Here we have developed a map that can guide scientists to regions of the genome that do appear to be functionally relevant, instead of a dead end."
Using a new method (called FAIRE-seq) developed in Lieb's laboratory, the researchers produced the first high-resolution atlas of these regulatory elements in pancreatic islet cells, the most studied cell type for the treatment and prevention of type 2 diabetes.
The study was published online recently in Nature Genetics.
This map is likely to help identify new genetic targets for understanding and treating type 2 diabetes, but the method used in this study isn't limited to diabetes or pancreatic islet cells. Lieb plans to use FAIRE-seq to investigate other cells, including immune cells.
The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about diabetes.