They claim that understanding how these genetic regions contribute to the condition could lead to new strategies for prevention and treatment.
The discovery is said to be particularly significant in that less is known about the hereditary causes of diabetes than how lifestyle contributes to its development.
Type two diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and affects 170 million people worldwide.
Three independent research groups identified genetic variations that affect type two diabetes risk and then compared their results. They are presented today in the journal Science.
Researcher Leif Groop, a principal investigator in the Diabetes Genetics Initiative, said that this "unprecedented" collaboration has provided "the most extensive view yet of the genetic roots of type two diabetes".
Dr Elias Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), added: "This achievement represents a major milestone in our battle against diabetes. It will accelerate efforts to understand the genetic risk factors for this disease, as well as explore how these genetic factors interact with each other and with lifestyle factors.
"Such research is opening the door to the era of personalised medicine. Our current one-size-fits-all approach will soon give way to more individualized strategies based on each person's unique genetic make-up."
Dr Iain Frame, research manager at Diabetes UK, described the findings as "exciting".
"It's important to remember that type two diabetes is a genetic condition and not just associated with lifestyle factors," he said.
"This discovery will help us get closer to unravelling the genetics of the condition. If we can understand more about the genetics we can make real progress towards the prevention and treatment of type two diabetes."
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