Researchers from the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM), Barcelona, have discovered a new biomarker for type 2 diabetes.
The study, published in the journal Human Molecular Genetics, could help to more effectively identify people at risk of type 2 diabetes. It could also lead to better diabetes therapies in the future.
What did the study find?
The study found that the methylation of the TXNIP gene is associated with type 2 diabetes. Methylation is a process that modifies DNA, changing a gene’s structure.
“Unlike genetics, where all the cells of single organism share the same DNA that remains unchanged throughout life, epigenetics, and methylation in this case, the best studied epigenetic mechanism, is dynamic and adjusts according to our lifestyle,” said Carolina Soriano, of the Neurovascular research group at the IMIM. “It is a mechanism that can be associated with risk modulation in diverse pathologies, including diabetes.”
In other words, epigenetics can change, but genetics cannot.
The researchers studied methylation in the blood samples of 355 participants. They compared diabetic blood samples to non-diabetic blood samples. In both groups, they found that the TXNIP gene was not methylated, particularly in the case of people with poorly controlled blood glucose levels.
The researchers wrote: “In both analyses we detected that the TXNIP gene was hypomethylated (low level of genomic methylation) in patients with diabetes and, in particular, in those with poor control over their glucose levels. In addition, an in silico analysis (computer simulation) revealed that the hypomethylation position is located in a regulating region of the gene, which is why it has an effect on the expression.”
Next, the researchers replicated their study twice: once in a group of 167 patients, and secondly in a group of 645. The findings were the same both times, confirming the relationship between TXNIP methylation and type 2 diabetes.
“The methylation of this gene could be used as an early biomarker of dysfunction in the control of glucose levels,” the researchers wrote. “We are currently studying the implications and specific role of this gene in diabetes. In the future it could provide a possible therapeutic target for treating diabetes or controlling glucose concentrations.”

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