Epigenetic changes could be a biomarker for early detection of type 1 diabetes

NewsGuard 100/100 Score

Children who develop type 1 diabetes show epigenetic changes in the cells of their immune system already before the antibodies of the disease are detected in their blood. The findings of two new studies offer new opportunities to identify the children with the genetic risk for developing diabetes very early on.

Epigenetic changes can affect how our genes work. Environmental factors, such as viral infections, can cause epigenetic changes.

The findings in the epigenetic makeup linked to diabetes were discovered in two new studies led by researchers from Turku Bioscience at the University of Turku, Finland.

"We uncovered previously unknown, early-onset epigenetic changes. They offer us new opportunities to further develop ways to identify children who have a risk of developing type 1 diabetes even before they get sick," says Professor Riitta Lahesmaa, Director of Turku Bioscience and a group leader in the InFLAMES research flagship initiative.

Earlier studies have shown that certain antibodies detected in children's blood samples indicate an increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes in the near future. So that medical professionals could intervene in the disease even sooner, earlier disease indicators than the antibodies are needed to detect the risk. This involves searching for biomarkers indicating type 1 diabetes, and epigenetic changes could be such a biomarker.

Our observations on epigenetics are extremely important as our goal is to develop methods and tools to prevent the onset of type 1 diabetes in children who are at risk of developing the disease."

Professor Laura Elo, University of Turku, Finland

Elo is the Director of the Medical Bioinformatics Centre at Turku Bioscience and a group leader in the InFLAMES research flagship.

Finnish children have an increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes

In Finland, children's risk of developing type 1 diabetes is the highest in the world. In addition to the genetic susceptibility, environmental factors have a great significance for developing the disease. The environmental factors include, for example, excessive level of hygiene, biodiversity loss, and environmental toxins.

The newly published studies are based on long-term interdisciplinary research collaboration with international partners. The project has included doctors who are in charge of the patients and also conduct clinical research, researchers in molecular medicine and immunology, and experts in computational science. In the studies, researchers analyzed longitudinal samples with deep sequencing covering the entire genome as well as with computational methods and artificial intelligence.

"Our research was enabled by close collaboration with Professor Mikael Knip from the University of Helsinki, who coordinates a study funded by the EU. He is also one of the key scientists in the national Type 1 Diabetes Prediction and Prevention (DIPP) project which was a partner in the other study," highlights Professor Lahesmaa.

The studies were published in the esteemed Diabetologia and Diabetes Care journals. The studies were funded by the Academy of Finland, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (USA), European Union, Business Finland, Novo Nordisk, and InFLAMES Flagship.

Journal references:
  • Starskaia, I., et al. (2022) Early DNA methylation changes in children developing beta cell autoimmunity at a young age. Diabetologia. doi.org/10.1007/s00125-022-05657-x.
  • Suomi, T., et al. (2022) Type 1 Diabetes in Children With Genetic Risk May Be Predicted Very Early With a Blood miRNA. Diabetes Care. doi.org/10.2337/dc21-2120.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.

You might also like...
Nutritional interventions for type 2 diabetes management with glycemic control