Researchers have identified a biomarker in pre-diabetic individuals that could help prevent them from developing Type-2 diabetes.
The study found that pre-diabetic people who are considered to be insulin resistant — unable to respond to the hormone insulin effectively — have altered mitochondrial DNA.
Mitochondrion is responsible for converting chemical energy from food into energy that cells can use.
“Discovery of the biomarker in obese, pre-diabetic individuals advances our understanding of how diabetes develops and provides evidence important for future diagnosis and intervention,” said Fabio Almeida, assistant professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Researchers analysed blood samples taken from 40 participants who did not have diabetes or cardiovascular disease, but were pre-diabetic and showed signs of insulin resistance.
Blood samples revealed participants had lower amounts of mitochondrial DNA with a higher amount of methylation — a process that can change the expression of genes and mitochondrial copy numbers in cells — than healthy people.
“Mitochondrial alterations have previously been observed in obese individuals, but this is the first time we have made the molecular link between insulin resistance and mitochondrial DNA changes,” Zhiyong Cheng, assistant professor at Virginia Tech pointed out.
The researchers believe that this link could be important for treating pre-diabetic individuals to prevent Type-2 diabetes.