Grove [Sweden], November 22 (ANI): Monozygotic twins share the same DNA, but one twin can develop type 2 diabetes while the other twin does not develop the disease.
A study led by Lund University in Sweden has now discovered that there are differences in gene activity in twins where only one sibling had developed the disease. The researchers’ discovery could contribute to the development of new treatment methods. The findings were published in the journal Diabetes.
“Identical twins have the same genetic background, gender and age, and are therefore interesting to study for researchers who want to understand the mechanisms behind diseases. We found an epigenetic change in twins with type 2 diabetes that gives us new clues to the disease,” says Emma Nilsson, researcher in epigenetics and diabetes at Lund University, and one of the main authors behind the study.
14 twin couples from Sweden and Denmark were recruited for the study. Among the siblings, one of the identical twins had developed type 2 diabetes. The average age of the participants was 68 years and the twins who had developed diabetes had a slightly higher BMI compared to their siblings.
Epigenetic changes occur through, among other things, DNA methylation, a chemical process that controls the function of genes. The process is affected by various environmental factors, such as diet, exercise and stress. The researchers analyzed DNA methylation and microRNAs in fat biopsies from twin couples to increase their knowledge of why only one twin had developed type 2 diabetes. MicroRNA regulates the production of proteins in the cells.
The researchers’ analyzes showed that a gene responsible for producing a specific microRNA, microRNA-30, was less active in twins with type 2 diabetes. This led to them having lower levels of microRNA-30 in their adipose tissue than their siblings. The same pattern was found in the control group, which consisted of 28 people with type 2 diabetes and 28 people without the disease. The participants in the control group were not biologically related to each other.
“We were able to confirm our results in individuals without twin siblings and this proves that our results are relevant to all people and not just to identical twins,” says Emma Nilsson.
The researchers also conducted experiments in which they reduced the amount of microRNA-30 in cultured fat cells, to see how it affected the cells’ ability to absorb glucose.
In type 2 diabetes, the body becomes worse at processing blood sugar. This is partly because the cells have become less sensitive to insulin. Insulin resistance causes an increase in blood sugar levels. The researchers’ experiments showed that cells with a smaller amount of microRNA-30 also had a reduced ability to take up glucose.
“We see the same pattern in people with type 2 diabetes. The study is an important piece of the puzzle in our work to understand the mechanisms behind type 2 diabetes. The more pieces of the puzzle we find, the better new drugs we can develop,” says Emma Nilsson.
Increased knowledge of the mechanisms behind the disease could lead to more effective treatment of type 2 diabetes. Many patients experience side effects or have difficulty gaining good control of their blood sugar with the drugs available today. The researchers plan to follow up their results in future studies.
“Our study could be a step towards new treatment options where microRNAs are used as an active substance in medicines to treat patients with type 2 diabetes. Clinical studies are already underway where microRNAs are being tested as medicines for cancer. For example,” concludes Emma Nilsson (ANI)