Purpose of Review
To provide an update on knowledge the role of genetics in youth-onset type 2 diabetes (T2D).
The prevalence in youth of T2D, once thought to be exclusively a disease of adults, has increased by over 35% since 2001. Youth with T2D tend to have higher rates of complications, more aggressive disease, with more rapid loss of beta-cell function and a less favorable response to treatment than adults. Obesity is the most important risk factor for T2D, and the rise in childhood overweight and obesity appears responsible for the dramatic increase in T2D in youth. However, some obese children do not develop T2D, consistent with genetic differences in susceptibility to the disease in the setting of obesity and insulin resistance, currently far less well characterized in youth than in adults. Recent studies have begun to show associations of several established adult T2D genetic risk variants with youth-onset T2D and related glycemic quantitative traits, including the strongest known cross-population T2D genetic contributor TCF7L2. Maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY), a diabetes subtype distinct from type 1 diabetes (T1D) and T2D, is now known to result from a highly penetrant gene mutation in one of several genes. MODY has been shown to account for or contribute to at least 4.5% of clinically diagnosed T2D, even among those who are overweight or obese, impacting treatment decisions. The recently formed ProDiGY (Progress in Diabetes Genetics in Youth) Consortium is using genome-wide association studies and whole exome sequencing to understand the genetic architecture of T2D in youth, including how it differs from that of adults.
The limited amount of research conducted to date on the genetics of youth-onset T2D, which tends to be a more aggressive disease than adult T2D, suggests some overlap with genes involved in adult T2D and a sizeable influence of highly penetrant monogenic diabetes variants. The ProDiGY Consortium is expected to provide a more comprehensive understanding of youth T2D genetics.