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Potential, Prediabetes Genetic Marker Discovered

Sep 4, 2015

Research pinpoints molecular link between insulin resistance and mitochondrial changes…

A recent study published in Clinical Epigenetics said researchers sought to discover if they could find any biomarkers in a group of patients with no pre-existent diabetes or cardiovascular disease, but indication of prediabetes and insulin resistance.


Researchers analyzed data from 40 patients from the diaBEAT-it program and looked at the effects of mitochondrial DNA and metabolic regulation. Of the participants, 32 were obese and 8 were lean. Past research has pointed to mitochondrial function and reduced energy levels being a culprit in insulin resistance.

This research is the first to specifically pinpoint a molecular link between insulin resistance and mitochondrial changes. Blood samples from the patients showed lower mitochondrial DNA with higher methylation. This methylation is suggestive of gene expression changes and variance in mitochondrial copies.

The 32 obese patients had a significantly lower mitochondrial DNA copy number (mtDNAn) with associations to insulin resistance. The finding fits alongside the role of mitochondria in converting chemical energy from food into useable energy for cells.

Moreover, this study helps to further define mitochondrial DNA as a biomarker in identifying individuals with prediabetes. The finding helps to advance the theories about how diabetes develops in individuals.

Overall, this finding will be useful in the future for assessing and diagnosing patients, then making interventions before type 2 diabetes occurs.

Practice Pearls:

  • A recent study evaluated blood samples from 40 patients with no pre-existing cardiovascular conditions or diabetes, but signs of insulin resistance.
  • Obese patients in the group had significantly lower copies of mitochondrial DNA with higher methylation changes—suggestive of gene expression changes.
  • Mitochondrial DNA may prove a useful biomarker in identifying prediabetes patients and providing better diagnosis and interventions in the future.

Zheng, Louise D., Leah E. Linarelli, Longhua Liu, et al. “Insulin Resistance Is Associated with Epigenetic and Genetic Regulation of Mitochondrial DNA in Obese Humans.” Clinical Epigenetics Clin Epigenet (2015). Web. 28 Aug. 2015. .