Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that affects the body’s ability to process blood sugar (glucose). Being overweight or obese, having a family history of diabetes, being physically inactive, and having high blood pressure or high cholesterol are all risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Analyzing DNA changes in blood can help predict a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes within a decade.
Scientists studied the impact of these changes, known as DNA methylation, along with other risk factors in nearly 15,000 people to predict the likelihood of developing the condition years before any symptoms appeared. The findings could lead to the implementation of preventative measures earlier, reducing the economic and health burden caused by type 2 diabetes.
Methylation is a chemical process in the body that involves the addition of a small molecule known as a methyl group to DNA. Current type 2 diabetes risk prediction tools use information such as age, gender, BMI, and family history of the disease.
We are extremely grateful to our study volunteers who make this research possible; the more people who participate in our study, the more precisely we will be able to identify signals that will help delay or reduce the onset of diseases as we age.Professor Riccardo Marioni
The inclusion of DNA methylation data alongside these risk factors provided a more accurate prediction, according to researchers from the University of Edinburgh. The researchers used their findings to estimate the predictive performance of a 10,000-person screening scenario in which one in every three people develops type 2 diabetes over a 10-year period.
When compared to traditional risk factors alone, the model that used DNA methylation correctly classified an additional 449 individuals. The addition or removal of these methyl groups can have an effect on how certain molecules behave in the body. These methylation patterns can be used to track aging and disease development.
The data came from 14,613 volunteers in the Generation Scotland study, a large study designed to assist scientists in investigating disease causes, understanding the country’s healthcare priorities, and informing future medical treatments and health policies. The researchers also repeated the analyses in 1,451 people from a German study to ensure that their findings could be replicated in people from different backgrounds.
Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition in which the insulin produced by the pancreas does not function properly or is insufficient. This can result in high blood sugar levels, which can lead to a variety of health problems such as heart disease and stroke, nerve damage, and foot problems. Diabetes affects over 4.9 million people in the UK, with type 2 accounting for 90% of cases.
According to Yipeng Cheng, a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Genomic and Experimental Medicine, “it is promising that our findings were observed in the Scottish and German studies, with both showing an improvement in prediction above and beyond commonly used risk factors. Delaying onset is important as diabetes is a risk factor for other common diseases, including dementias.”
Professor Riccardo Marioni of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Genomic and Experimental Medicine, who led the study, said, “Similar approaches could be taken for other common diseases to generate broad health predictors from a single blood or saliva sample. We are extremely grateful to our study volunteers who make this research possible; the more people who participate in our study, the more precisely we will be able to identify signals that will help delay or reduce the onset of diseases as we age.”