Scientists have identified epigenetic markers that could help with the early prediction of diseases like type 2 diabetes.
The team from the Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen in Germany looked at the epigenome using blood samples from 10,000 men and women people from across Europe and how change might affect their body mass index (BMI).
They identified 5,387 samples which had changes depending on the person’s BMI. They found that the changes were related to blood fat metabolism and inflammation using state of the art technology in what was the world’s largest study so far of its kind.
Looking at the 5,387 samples, the research team identified 207 gene loci that were epigenetically altered dependent on the BMI. They then tested these loci in blood samples of an additional 4,874 subjects and were able to confirm 187 of these.
Further studies and long term observations also indicated that the changes were predominantly a consequence of being overweight, not the cause.
As a result of their findings they were able to find epigenetic markers that they believe could be used to detect signs that a person could face a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and therefore make changes to their lifestyle that could prevent the condition developing.
Lead author Dr Simone Wahl explained that the findings are particularly relevant because an estimated one and a half billion people throughout the world are overweight and at risk of type 2 diabetes.
According to Christian Gieger, head of the Research Unit for Molecular Epidemiology (AME), the results allow new insights into which signalling pathways are influenced by obesity.
‘We hope that this will lead to new strategies for predicting and possibly preventing type 2 diabetes and other consequences of being overweight,’ he said.
The researchers now want to investigate in detail how the epigenetic changes affect the expression of the underlying genes.
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