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Blood test to show risk of T2

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have found a new type of biomarker that can predict the risk of Type 2 diabetes, by detecting epigenetic changes in specific genes through a simple blood test. The results were published in Nature Communications.

“This could motivate a person at risk to change their lifestyle”, said Karl Bacos, researcher in epigenetics at Lund University. Predicting the onset of diabetes is already possible by measuring the blood glucose level average, HbA1C, over time. However, the predictive potential of this method is modest and new methods are needed.

The discoveries made by the research group at Lund University have now made it possible to measure the presence of so-called DNA methylations in four specific genes, and thereby predict who is at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, long before the disease occurs. Methylations are chemical changes that control gene activity, that is, whether they are active or not. They found that the DNA methylations in the four genes in question increased, depending on the donor’s age. This in turn affected the activity of the genes. When these changes were copied in cultured beta cells, they proved to have a positive effect on insulin secretion. “We could then see the same DNA methylation changes in the blood which was really cool”, said Bacos.

“Increased insulin secretion actually protects against type 2 diabetes. It could be the body’s way of protecting itself when other tissue becomes resistant to insulin, which often happens as we get older”, says professor and research project manager Charlotte Ling. The research group has previously shown that age, diet and exercise affect the so-called epigenetic risk of type 2 diabetes. “You cannot change your genes and the risks that they entail, but epigenetics means that you can affect the DNA methylations, and thereby gene activity, through lifestyle choices”, she added.

This news item first appeared in Desang Diabetes Magazine, our free-to-receive digital journal. We cover diabetes news, diabetes management equipment (diabetes kit) and news about food suitable for a diabetic diet. Go to the top of this page to sign up – we just need your email address.


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