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New Genetic Research Makes Breakthroughs

Jul 19, 2008
Medical insurance can be a little costly when you fill in forms that state your family has a history of various illnesses. This is because the assumption is that, if it's in the family, then you have an increased risk of developing it but that is not always so and is it fair that medical insurance premiums are raised because of it?

One thing that could help medical insurance companies and, more importantly, the health of the nation, is the new research results recently released by scientists carrying out the biggest genetic study ever attempted. The Guardian reports that scientists made major headway in identifying the genes that put us all at increased risk of developing various diseases. This is essential information in the quest for finding cures for the same illnesses.

The human genome project was completed in 2000 which mapped every gene in the human body and from this scientists have also been able to identify rare genetic variants that cause diseases such as cystic fibrosis as well as many others.

In a study costing a staggering 9 pounds million, 17,000 people took part in 50 research groups and 24 new genetic links were found for Crohn's disease, bipolar disorder (manic depression), type 1 and 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and rheumatoid arthritis. Certain genes had already been identified as having a link with these diseases and the increase in findings allows for more intense research and thus, more chance of finding a cure.

A test on this scale has never been carried out before and is being hailed as offering many breakthroughs, particularly in the areas of diabetes. For each disease that was being looked at, 2,000 patient's samples were taken and compared with 3,000 'control' samples from healthy patients. 500,000 genetic differences were looked at. This sort of research is vital to show where scientists should be starting on the road to looking for cures, treatments or diagnosis.

If a patient can be identified by his or her genes as having an increased risk of any particular disease, this then gives them the choice to make lifestyle changes and take preventative measures. This is because the scientists admit that gene study is only the beginning. Many diseases will only develop in a person with increased risk if other, environmental, factors are in place. Diet and general health also play a large part in whether or not a disease develops and the findings from the latest studies will give patients and doctors a much wider scope to prevent or heal.

Eight new genetic links were found for Crohn's disease. This illness affects up to 60,000 people in the UK and genetic links bring a 40% increase in risk. Diabetes affects over 2 million people in the UK and four new genes related to the disease have been discovered.

Up to 100 million people worldwide suffer from bipolar disorder (manic depression) and genetics have been found to play a key role in the way nerve cells work in the brain which could lead to better medicine or even a cure. With coronary heart disease that claims 105,000 lives each year in Britain alone, several new genetic links have been discovered through this study and a further three new genes identified for high blood pressure.

For those with rheumatoid arthritis, three more possible locations in the genome that play their part in people developing this condition have been found. It is important to remember that it's not simply life saving that this study is being carried out for but also for better patient quality of life and preventing the diseases developing in the first place.
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