What Is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the body’s insulin use. It mostly affects middle-aged and older people, but it can also affect children and teens due to childhood obesity. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, with around 1 in 10 people in the U.S. having it. Additionally, about 1 in 3 people have prediabetes, which means their blood sugar is high but not high enough to be classified as diabetes.

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes can be mild, and many don’t realize they have it. Symptoms may include:

  • Being very thirsty
  • Peeing a lot
  • Blurry vision
  • Tingling or numbness in your hands or feet
  • Fatigue/feeling worn out
  • Wounds that don’t heal
  • Yeast infections that keep coming back
  • Feeling hungry
  • Weight loss without trying
  • Getting infections

It is recommended to see a doctor in case of severe symptoms.

A study recently conducted by researchers at Lund University, and published in Nature Communications, suggests that epigenetic changes may be an important factor in the development of type 2 diabetes, rather than simply occurring as a result of the disease. This new research strengthens the theory that alterations in epigenetics can lead to type 2 diabetes, and the team is now focusing on developing strategies for disease prevention.

What is Epigenetics changes?

Epigenetic changes are alterations in how genes are turned on and off without changing the DNA sequence. We inherit our genes from our parents, and they rarely change. However, environmental and lifestyle factors can cause epigenetic changes that can affect the function of genes. Environmental factors like diet, exercise, drugs, and chemicals, and by aging may be the cause of epigenetic changes.

“Our new extensive study confirms our previous findings from smaller studies, showing that epigenetic changes can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes. In this study, we have also identified new genes that impact the development of the disease. Our hope is that with the help of these results, we can develop methods that can be used to prevent type 2 diabetes,” says Charlotte Ling, professor of diabetes and epigenetics at Lund University’s Diabetes Centre (LUDC), who led the study.

The same epigenetic changes

The researchers studied epigenetics in insulin-producing cells from donors and found 5584 sites in the genome with changes that differed between 25 individuals with type 2 diabetes and 75 individuals without the disease. The same epigenetic changes found in people with type 2 diabetes were also found in individuals with elevated blood sugar levels, which increase the risk of developing the disease.

“Those of us who study epigenetics, have long tried to understand whether epigenetic changes cause type 2 diabetes or if the changes occur after the disease has already developed. Because we saw the same epigenetic changes in people with type 2 diabetes and individuals at risk for the disease, we conclude that these changes may contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes,” says Tina Rönn, lead author and researcher at Lund University’s Diabetes Centre (LUDC).

A recent study has identified 203 genes that exhibit different expressions among individuals with type 2 diabetes as compared to the control group. Researchers found that the RHOT1 gene demonstrated epigenetic changes in people suffering from type 2 diabetes. This gene plays a crucial role in insulin secretion in insulin-producing cells. Additionally, when the researchers knocked out the expression of the RHOT1 gene in cells from donors without type 2 diabetes, insulin secretion decreased.

“When we examined the same type of cells in rats with diabetes, we found a lack of RHOT1, confirming the gene’s importance for insulin secretion,” says Tina Rönn.

Methods that can prevent the disease

The goal of the research is to create a biomarker using blood that can predict who is at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. To determine if their findings from insulin-producing cells in the pancreas were reflected in the blood of living people, the researchers examined whether epigenetic changes were present in the blood of 540 individuals without the disease. They discovered epigenetic changes in half of the individuals, and linked this to the future development of type 2 diabetes.

Risk factors such as unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle, and aging can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, and they also affect our epigenetics. With the new study, researchers have identified new mechanisms that may make it possible to develop methods to help prevent type 2 diabetes.

“If we succeed in developing an epigenetic biomarker, we can identify individuals with epigenetic changes before they become ill. These individuals can, for example, receive personalized lifestyle advice that can reduce their risk of disease, or we can develop methods that aim to correct the activity of certain genes using epigenetic editing,” says Charlotte Ling.

This news is a creative derivative product from articles published in famous peer-reviewed journals and Govt reports:

References:
1. Rönn, T., Ofori, J.K., Perfilyev, A. et al. Genes with epigenetic alterations in human pancreatic islets impact mitochondrial function, insulin secretion, and type 2 diabetes. Nat Commun14, 8040 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-023-43719-9
2. Type 2 Diabetes: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment. WebMD; WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/type-2-diabetes
3. Abeysekera, K. W., Valenti, L., Younossi, Z., Dillon, J. F., Allen, A. M., Nourredin, M., … & Tsochatzis, E. A. (2024). Implementation of a liver health check in people with type 2 diabetes. The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 9(1), 83-91.
4. Nogueira, J. P., & Cusi, K. (2024). Role of insulin resistance in the development of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in people with type 2 diabetes: from bench to patient care. Diabetes Spectrum, 37(1), 20-28.
5. Lizárraga, D., Gómez-Gil, B., García-Gasca, T., Ávalos-Soriano, A., Casarini, L., Salazar-Oroz, A., & García-Gasca, A. (2024). Gestational diabetes mellitus: genetic factors, epigenetic alterations, and microbial composition. Acta Diabetologica, 61(1), 1-17.
6. Raghubeer, S. (2024, February). The influence of epigenetics and inflammation on cardiometabolic risks. In Seminars in Cell & Developmental Biology (Vol. 154, pp. 175-184). Academic Press.

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