Scientists Can Demonstrate Type 2 Diabetes Susceptibility By DNA Mapping
A team of researchers led by Dr. Asaf Hellman from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem conducted a study according to which they found the molecular risk factors which are leading to type 2 diabetes, thus leading to better measurements to detect patients at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes and at high risk of developing other diseases.
Although numerous studies have been conducted on the molecular basis for disease susceptibility, this subject is still poorly understood. The scientists found out that the cause of type 2 diabetes susceptibility is represented by epigenetic variations. This epigenetic variations are small molecular marks superimposed on the DNA structure which can modify the predisposition of one person to certain diseases.
The design of this study is involving the analysis of epigenetic variations which lead to a higher susceptibility of developing type 2 diabetes among people who have relatives suffering from type 2 diabetes mellitus. This study was published in the Human Molecular Genetic, a scientific journal and was presented at the Genomic Center of Cambridge University.
For this study researchers team decided to map DNA methylation variation among 1,169 type 2 diabetes patients and in non-diabetic patients, who represented the control group. The result of this mapping is that patients who presented a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes are having a specific DNA methylation signature, thus revealing the epigenetic risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes.
DNA methylation is a protective mechanism which regulates enzymes and genes that are involved in the DNA replication process, thus protecting the replication of DNA so that no errors occur while copying the information on DNA strands. DNA methylation is one of the epigentic regulatory process, in which an alteration in gene expression will not change the nucleotide sequence in the DNA. The alteration of this regulatory process can lead to some certain diseases in humans.
The analysis of DNA methylation using DNA mapping revealed, for the first time, that in patients with a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes is present a epigenetic signature. This analysis also revealed that in younger individuals who can develop in the future glucose metabolism conditions, in the DNA structure appear specific markers of methylation, before the appearence of clinical manifestation of diabetes.
This research is very important because can lead to a better understanding of individual susceptibility of type 2 diabetes and can represent a starting point in understanding and elucidating the predisposition for other human diseases which have a similar mechanism, like metabolic, autoimmune and psychiatric diseases. Because epigentic marks are sensitive to a wide range of environmental factors, like chemical exposure, diet, intrauterine factors and some therapeutic drugs, the findings of this study can represent a way to understand and to realize a more efficient prevention of certain chronic diseases and maybe in the future the medical world will be able to develop epigenetic therpaies.