Conacyt this week published a report on a study whereby Mexican scientists at INMEGEN linked DNA changes to Type 2 diabetes in obese people. The study was published in BMC Medical Genetics Journal on Feb. 15. They identified many examples of DNA methylation in samples of liver, blood and fat in individuals with obesity, which influenced the development of Type 2 diabetes.
The link between Type 2 diabetes and DNA alteration has been studied for decades. While over 80 changes in DNA have been associated with Type 2 diabetes, there is still no clear link between the two. INMEGEN’s scientists analyzed DNA methylation in samples of liver, visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue in healthy individuals and Type 2 diabetics. They observed a difference in the frequency of methylated bases within both groups. They concluded that aberrant DNA methylation may play a role in the development of Type 2 diabetes in obese people.
A common modification of DNA is methylation, in which a methyl group gets covalently attached to a DNA base, either cytosine or adenine. Methylation can occur normally as part of life, but in some cases can lead to cardiovascular diseases or cancer.
Obesity is one of the main risk factors for Type 2 diabetes. However, not all obese people develop diabetes nor are all diabetics obese. In fact, the exact causes for diabetes type 2 are still a topic of debate in scientific circles. Excessive accumulation of fat leads to many different metabolic changes, among them insulin resistance that often, but not always, causes diabetes.
While many environmental factors, including age, high blood pressure, low physical activity and high sugar intake, are associated with the development of the disease, researchers are still studying why this disease affects some people but not others with extremely similar lifestyles. The answer might be in their DNA, or in alterations to their DNA to be more precise.
Changes in the chromosome can affect gene expression. Said changes can be caused by environmental factors from where one lives to how much one sleeps, and many other small minutiae of daily life. Some DNA modifications have no notable effect and go completely unnoticed, while other might lead to severe diseases. Sometimes it takes the accumulation of many specific changes for a disease to manifest.
There is still much research to be done to shed light on the link between both diseases but this is one step forward on the fight against the disease that affects 16 percent of Mexicans.