Dr. Graeme Bell, a researcher in the University of Chicago's Howard Hughes Medical Institute, has dominated genetic studies of type 2 diabetes. In a 1991 landmark paper, the Bell lab mapped MODY1, the gene responsible for an unusual form of early-onset diabetes, to a small region on chromosome 20. This was the first time genetic techniques had been used to determine the chromosomal location of a gene that could cause diabetes. Thus allowing researchers to successfully predict which children from the family would eventually develop diabetes.
In 1992, they found MODY2. Bell and colleagues discovered that mutations of the gene for the enzyme glucokinase caused early-onset type 2 diabetes in a different family.
In 1995, they mapped MODY3 to a specific region on chromosome 12. And, in 1996, Bell and colleagues mapped NIDDM1, the gene responsible for a significant proportion of diabetes in Mexican-Americans, to one end of chromosome 2.
In 2000, in a finding that provided an enormous boost for scientists interested in either diabetes or genetics, a team led by Bell and Nancy Cox identified the major susceptibility gene for type 2 or non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) in Mexican-Americans. The gene pinpointed a new and unexpected biochemical pathway leading to diabetes and suggests novel approaches to prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. This was the first time that a genome-wide approach has successfully led to the identification of a susceptibility gene responsible for a common, genetically complex disorder.