In the next 18 months, a collection of biological samples of people with type 2 diabetes will appear in the laboratory of biobanking and genomic medicine at St Petersburg University.


The study of biological samples will help determine which mutations in which genes trigger a serious disease. This will therefore help to identify the disease before the initial symptoms appear. The work is organised together with the University of Tartu in the framework of the first international project in Russia in the field of biobanking. 

Geneticists from Russia and Estonia launched an international research project designed to determine the genetic causes of type 2 diabetes. It will also identify genetic markers associated with a severe form of this disease. To achieve this, scientists will create a collection of blood samples of 2,000 patients with type 2 diabetes living in the Northwest.

The bases for the collection of biomaterials will be: Pskov Regional Clinical Hospital; D.O. Ott Research Institute of Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Reproductology; St Martyr George City Hospital; and other medical institutions of St Petersburg, including endocrinological centres. The geneticists of one of the most famous genomic centres of the European Union – the University of Tartu (Estonia) – are also taking part in the project. St Petersburg University functions as its central coordinating body.

The collected samples are planned to be analysed using the genome-wide association studies (GWAS). These make it possible for scientists to trace candidate genes for various diseases. These include type 1 and type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and obesity to name but a few. As a result of the work, researchers will be able to identify genetic markers associated with the most common endocrine disease in the world. 

>90 %
of all patients with diabetes suffer from type 2 diabetes. In Russia there are 3.7 million people with this disease.

‘Studies carried out on twins show that the role of genetics in the development of this disease is at least 70–80%,’ said Andrei Glotov, head of the laboratory of biobanking and genomic medicine at St Petersburg University. ‘It is impossible to ignore this factor. Nowadays, the diagnosis of diabetes is determined on the basis of serious criteria, such as increased body mass index. However, this is already the disease onset, and there are practically no techniques to detect it in the early stages.’

The international project ‘Development of Measures for Improving the Quality of Diagnosis and Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes’ is being implemented within the framework of the cooperation programme between Russia and Estonia (‘Estonia -Russia Cross-Border Cooperation Programme 2014–2020’). The amount of co-financing allocated by the programme for the project is more than 27 million roubles. The project is being implemented in cooperation with: St Petersburg University; the University of Tartu; Pskov State University; and OOO ‘Biogarmonia’.  

As noted by the scientists, the genetic data on which such studies are usually based are most often obtained from Americans or Europeans. There are almost no studies of the Russian population. However, this information plays an important role in studying diabetes among Northwestern residents. In future, the analysed samples can be used during other large-scale studies, and the biomaterial will be stored mainly in the Biobank of the St Petersburg University Research Park.

‘The second part of the project is educational,’ said Iuliia Nasykhova, a senior research associate at the laboratory of biobanking and genomic medicine at St Petersburg University. ‘When the results are obtained of the large-scale work, we will hold three educational seminars for doctors from Tartu, St Petersburg and Pskov, primarily for therapists and endocrinologists. This will increase the awareness among specialists of the contribution of genetics to the development of type 2 diabetes.’