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In a Finnish study that included researchers from UCLA, the DNA from nearly 20,000 people was harnessed to identify genetic mutations that may increase the risk of diabetes, high cholesterol and other diseases and conditions.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, suggest the potential for using genomic sequencing to uncover variations that may increase the risk for several common health problems, including heart disease, obesity and metabolic syndrome. The researchers also identified genetic differences that may result in below-average height and weight.

The study authors — from UCLA, Washington University, the University of Michigan, the University of Helsinki in Finland and 18 other institutions — said they found 26 potentially harmful genetic variations. Nineteen of those variations are either unique to or 20 times more likely to occur in the Finnish population examined for the study.

Study author Dr. Nelson Freimer, the Maggie G. Gilbert Professor of Psychiatry and Human Genetics, and director of the Center for Neurobehavioral Genetics at the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, co-led the research with Michael Boehnke, the Richard G. Cornell Distinguished University professor of biostatistics and director of the Center for Statistical Genetics at University of Michigan School of Public Health. Freimer discussed the study’s significance.

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