Genetics of diabetes mellitus and diabetes complications

Nat Rev Nephrol. 2020 Jul;16(7):377-390. doi: 10.1038/s41581-020-0278-5. Epub 2020 May 12.


Diabetes is one of the fastest growing diseases worldwide, projected to affect 693 million adults by 2045. Devastating macrovascular complications (cardiovascular disease) and microvascular complications (such as diabetic kidney disease, diabetic retinopathy and neuropathy) lead to increased mortality, blindness, kidney failure and an overall decreased quality of life in individuals with diabetes. Clinical risk factors and glycaemic control alone cannot predict the development of vascular complications; numerous genetic studies have demonstrated a clear genetic component to both diabetes and its complications. Early research aimed at identifying genetic determinants of diabetes complications relied on familial linkage analysis suited to strong-effect loci, candidate gene studies prone to false positives, and underpowered genome-wide association studies limited by sample size. The explosion of new genomic datasets, both in terms of biobanks and aggregation of worldwide cohorts, has more than doubled the number of genetic discoveries for both diabetes and diabetes complications. We focus herein on genetic discoveries for diabetes and diabetes complications, empowered primarily through genome-wide association studies, and emphasize the gaps in research for taking genomic discovery to the next level.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / genetics
  • Diabetes Complications / etiology
  • Diabetes Complications / genetics*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / genetics*
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / etiology
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / genetics
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / etiology
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / genetics
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / etiology
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / genetics
  • Humans