Type 2 diabetes has strong hereditary tendencies and the genes we are born with cannot be changed. However, new research from Lund University in Sweden shows that we can modify the function of the genes through the epigenetic changes that take place in the course of life. Epigenetic changes are usually described as a link between heredity and environment and come about as a result of factors such as ageing, chemicals, medication, diet, exercise and drugs.
Researchers have now demonstrated that half of the known genetic risk variants for type 2 diabetes can be influenced by epigenetic changes that in turn influence the function of the insulin-producing cells.
"This means that we gain a tool to influence the function of the risk genes, improve insulin release and thereby reduce the risk of diabetes", says Charlotte Ling at Lund University Diabetes Centre, who has today published a study on epigenetic effects in connection with type 2 diabetes in the journal Diabetologia.
The epigenetic factor that has been studied is a chemical change on the DNA strand following a certain pattern, known as DNA methylation.