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Finnish research team looks for risk factors of diseases associated with diabetes

400 million individuals in the world have diabetes. Half of them have diabetic complications as kidney disease, eye disease or, for example, diabetic foot. FinnDiane research project’s objective is to identify hereditary and environmental risk factors predisposing to diabetic complications.

FinnDiane, established by Professor Per-Henrik Groop in 1997, is a follow-up study participated in by almost 8,000 individuals with type 1 diabetes. The participants are recruited at 80 hospitals and health centres across Finland. It is one of the most extensive research materials on type 1 diabetes and associated complications in the world. Now, this material is used for sequencing the genome of 1,700 patients.

Genetic Epidemiologist Niina Sandholm at Folkhälsan Research Centre is involved in the FinnDiane research project, which is a collaboration project between University of Helsinki, Helsinki University Hospital (HUS) and Folkhälsan Research Center. According to Sandholm, the research results may help predict the risk of developing a condition or lead the way in developing new medicines.

– The broader goal of genetic research is to identify variants that affect the risk of developing a disease or directly cause a disease. This enables a better understanding of the causes of diabetic complications.

The ultimate goal is to learn to prevent and find cures to diseases associated with diabetes.

– Our aim is to read the entire DNA sequence of all patients. This will result in a huge amount of data, says Sandholm.

Genome sequencing on an exceptional scale

CSC provides the ePouta service for processing sensitive data. In the ePouta cloud service, virtual private servers operate on CSC’s computing platform under increased data security. The users receive dedicated cloud resources which are separated from CSC’s other computing environments. The FinnDiane research group uses the computing cluster of Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM) which is connected to CSC’s sensitive data computing platform via the ePouta light path. By scaling the computing resources, the light path enables faster processing of the project data. In addition, the researchers have been allocated a remarkable amount of storage space to store the genomic data.

The research group has already sequenced the entire genomes of 600 patients. This study is one of the world’s first to sequence the entire genome this extensively with regard to a specific disease.

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