Roche announces genetic link to stroke

Roche's partnership with Iceland's Decode has allowed it to make some breakthrough discoveries.

The Swiss pharmaceuticals giant, Roche, and Iceland's deCODE Genetics, have identified a gene linked to stroke and mapped the location of another gene associated with adult diabetes.

This content was published on May 22, 2001 - 16:29

As part of an ongoing collaboration, the genes, isolated by deCODE, will be used by Roche to identify new drug targets.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the industrialised world. "Once you know the gene, you basically have the first stone to a mosaic of the mechanism which contributes to the occurrence or the severity of the disease," said Klaus Lindpaintner, director of Roche Genetics.

"It's an important advance because the medicines we build usually have no causal connection with the disease. We know that by inhibiting a particular pathway, we can change the symptoms but it doesn't mean that it necessarily attacks the cause of the disease.

"Once we know the cause, the hope is that we will be able to create medicines which will be more successful and more specific."

Three thousand Icelandic patients and their family members participated in the study. The genetic homogeneity of the Icelandic population provides excellent conditions for tracing the genetics of complex diseases. Geographic isolation has left the gene pool little changed for 1,000 years.

In a separate development, deCODE was able to narrow the location to a small chromosomal region of a gene associated with type 2 or adult-onset diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes accounts for around 90 per cent of diabetes cases and is most prevalent among people over the age of 40 and the severely obese.

It is characterised by the body's inability to adequately regulate blood sugar levels through proper insulin secretion and response. Type 2 diabetes is also associated with high blood pressure and narrowing of the arteries.

This study used the genotypes of 2,700 patients and relatives grouped into 200 families from across Iceland.

Roche and deCODE have a five-year agreement to find genes contributing to important common diseases.

by Vincent Landon

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