Novel Genetic Actors of Diabetes-Associated Microvascular Complications: Retinopathy, Kidney Disease and Neuropathy

Rev Diabet Stud. Fall-Winter 2015;12(3-4):243-59. doi: 10.1900/RDS.2015.12.243. Epub 2016 Jan 25.


Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus can lead to the common microvascular complications of diabetic retinopathy, kidney disease, and neuropathy. Diabetic patients do not universally develop these complications. Long duration of diabetes and poor glycemic control explain a lot of the variability in the development of microvascular complications, but not all. Genetic factors account for some of the remaining variability because of the heritability and familial clustering of these complications. There have been a large number of investigations, including linkage studies, candidate gene studies, and genome-wide association studies, all of which have sought to identify the specific variants that increase susceptibility. For retinopathy, several genome-wide association studies have been performed in small or midsize samples, but no reproducible loci across the studies have been identified. For diabetic kidney disease, genome-wide association studies in larger samples have been performed, and loci for this complication are beginning to emerge. However, validation of the existing discoveries, and further novel discoveries in larger samples is ongoing. The amount of genetic research into diabetic neuropathy has been very limited, and much is dedicated to the understanding of genetic risk factors only. Collaborations that pool samples and aim to detect phenotype classifications more precisely are promising avenues for a better explanation of the genetics of diabetic microvascular complications.

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / genetics*
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / genetics*
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / genetics*
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / genetics*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans