International experts probed deeper than ever into the genetic differences between individuals that affect the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Lead investigator Professor Mark McCarthy, from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at Oxford University, said: "The 10 gene regions we have shown to be associated with Type 2 diabetes are taking us nearer a biological understanding of the disease.
"It is hard to come up with new drugs for diabetes without first having an understanding of which biological processes in the body to target. This work is taking us closer to that goal."
Almost three million people in the UK are affected by diabetes and a further 850,000 may be undiagnosed. Ninety per cent of those affected have the Type 2 version of the disease, which is linked to obesity and lifestyle.
Diabetes occurs when the body is no longer able to control the level of sugar in the blood. Left untreated, it can cause a host of health problems including heart disease, stroke, nerve damage and blindness.
The scientists analysed DNA from almost 35,000 people with Type 2 diabetes and 115,000 healthy individuals. They identified 10 new gene regions where DNA changes could be reliably linked to risk of the disease.
The research is published in the journal Nature Genetics.
Professor McCarthy added: "By looking at all 60 or so gene regions together we can look for signatures of the type of genes that influence the risk of Type 2 diabetes."