New clues in hunt for heredity in type 2 diabetes

March 19, 2013

Type 2 diabetes has strong hereditary tendencies and the genes we are born with cannot be changed. However, new research from Lund University in Sweden shows that we can modify the function of the genes through the epigenetic changes that take place in the course of life. Epigenetic changes are usually described as a link between heredity and environment and come about as a result of factors such as ageing, chemicals, medication, diet, exercise and drugs.

Researchers have now demonstrated that half of the known variants for type 2 diabetes can be influenced by that in turn influence the function of the insulin-producing cells.

"This means that we gain a tool to influence the function of the risk genes, improve and thereby reduce the risk of diabetes", says Charlotte Ling at Lund University Diabetes Centre, who has today published a study on epigenetic effects in connection with type 2 diabetes in the journal Diabetologia.

The epigenetic factor that has been studied is a chemical change on the following a certain pattern, known as .

"We have shown that 19 of 40 known genetic risk variants for type 2 diabetes are affected by DNA methylation, which in turn changes the function of the insulin-producing cells", says Charlotte Ling. "This is important. Many researchers have put a lot of time and resources into mapping our genome and finding genetic risk markers for diabetes and other diseases. We know that there are genetic variants that increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, but in most cases the reasons why this happens are still not known. The next step is to find this out and after this study of the genetic risk variants, we can say that in some cases the increased risk is probably due to varying degrees of DNA methylation."

The research group has studied insulin-producing cells from 84 deceased donors. This is the first epigenetic study to be carried out on the 40 risk markers for type 2 diabetes.

The present study shows that DNA methylation of genetic risk variants for diabetes influence the insulin-producing cells in various different ways, such as the amount of insulin they contain and the amount they are able to release into the blood stream.

"The next step in our work is to test whether we can reduce the risk of by changing the degree of DNA methylation in the genetic risk variants for the disease."

Explore further: Broader approach reveals genetic complexity behind diabetes genes

More information: Dayeh, T. et al. Identification of CpG-SNPs associated with type 2 diabetes and differential DNA methylation in human pancreatic islets, Diabetologia, 2013 Mar 6. link.springer.com/article/10.1 … %2Fs00125-012-2815-7

Related Stories

Broader approach reveals genetic complexity behind diabetes genes

September 4, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Using a new method, diabetes researchers at Lund University, Sweden, have been able to reveal more of the genetic complexity behind type 2 diabetes. The new research findings have been achieved as a result ...

Why resist insulin? Finding genes associated with insulin resistance

June 11, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Researchers have uncovered six genetic regions that appear to affect resistance to the effects of insulin, which is important in many cases of type 2 diabetes. Previously, only two regions had been described.

Researchers discover mechanism that could convert certain cells into insulin-making cells

April 29, 2011
Simply put, people develop diabetes because they don't have enough pancreatic beta cells to produce the insulin necessary to regulate their blood sugar levels.

The molecular mechanisms behind the benefits of exercise

September 20, 2012
Leading a sedentary lifestyle increases risk of developing type 2 diabetes. European scientists focused on delineating the mechanisms responsible for the beneficial effects of exercise on our metabolism.

Genetic study links body clock receptor to diabetes

January 29, 2012
A study published in Nature Genetics today has found new evidence for a link between the body clock hormone melatonin and type 2 diabetes. The study found that people who carry rare genetic mutations in the receptor for melatonin ...

Type 1 diabetes testing may be cheaper, faster

March 11, 2013
Work by researchers at The University of Western Australia could revolutionise testing for Type 1 diabetes around the world.

Recommended for you

New clues to treat Alagille syndrome from zebrafish

October 18, 2017
A new study led by researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) identifies potential new therapeutic avenues for patients with Alagille syndrome. The discovery, published in Nature Communications, ...

Genetic variants associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder identified

October 18, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—An international team of researchers has found evidence of four genes that can be linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In their paper published in the journal Nature Communications, the group ...

An architect gene is involved in the assimilation of breast milk

October 17, 2017
A family of "architect" genes called Hox coordinates the formation of organs and limbs during embryonic life. Geneticists from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), ...

Study identifies genes responsible for diversity of human skin colors

October 12, 2017
Human populations feature a broad palette of skin tones. But until now, few genes have been shown to contribute to normal variation in skin color, and these had primarily been discovered through studies of European populations.

Genes critical for hearing identified

October 12, 2017
Fifty-two previously unidentified genes that are critical for hearing have been found by testing over 3,000 mouse genes. The newly discovered genes will provide insights into the causes of hearing loss in humans, say scientists ...

Team completes atlas of human DNA differences that influence gene expression

October 11, 2017
Researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have completed a detailed atlas documenting the stretches of human DNA that influence gene expression - a key way in which a person's genome gives rise to an observable ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.