The findings from three academic research groups were published online in the journal Science. A separate report from Iceland's DeCode Genetics was published online in Nature Genetics.
The New York Times said the DeCode paper found one new gene and the academic groups -- led by Dr. David Altshuler of the Broad Institute, Michael Boehnke of the University of Michigan and Mark McCarthy of the University of Oxford -- found the other three.
The head of the National Institutes of Health calls the findings "a major milestone in the 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," NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni said Thursday in a release.
"Our current one-size-fits-all approach will soon give way to more individualized strategies based on each person's unique genetic make-up," he said.