Press release

Dundee study could pave way for tailored diabetes care

Published on 21 December 2022

The effectiveness of some common type 2 diabetes medications may depend upon an individual’s genetic make-up, a University of Dundee study has found.

On this page

Researchers at the University’s School of Medicine have identified two genes that could impact upon how GLP-1 receptor agonists - medication used to treat the condition - work.

The findings, published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, could potentially assist doctors in tailoring treatment for type 2 diabetes patients.

“Type 2 diabetes is one of the most pressing health issues faced by modern society,” said Dr Adem Dawed, an expert in Population Health and Genomics.

“Finding how a person’s body responds to medication is incredibly important, and this study has given us an important insight as to how GLP-1 receptor agonists – one of the main treatments of type 2 diabetes – can vary in efficacy. We have identified 5% of the population who could benefit the most from early treatment with GLP-1 receptor agonists based on their genetics.”

More than 4.7 million people in the UK live with diabetes, with figures having trebled since 1996.

Type 2 diabetes is the most prevalent form and can be affected by lifestyle habits, with the body not responding properly to insulin due to extra weight, and so being unable to regulate blood sugar levels. 

Complications arising from diabetes can include life threatening heart and kidney disease, and it is also the biggest cause of blindness and amputation in the UK.

For those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, GLP-1 receptor agonists are often used to lower blood sugar levels and assist with weight loss, while protecting a patient’s heart. However, the efficacy of these treatments can vary considerably between individuals.

"These findings have important implications for the future of diabetes treatment," added Professor Ewan Pearson, from Dundee’s School of Medicine.

"While more research is needed, we believe that this study represents an important step towards personalised treatment for individuals with type 2 diabetes."

The Dundee study is the first large-scale candidate-based and genome-wide analysis of its kind to determine how genetics can impact of the effectiveness of GLP-1 agonists, with researchers analysing results from 4571 adults.

The research was funded by the Wellcome Trust and Innovative Medicines Initiative.


Jonathan Watson

Senior Press Officer

+44 (0)1382 381489
Story category Research