New research from the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery (PNR&D) shows that the activity of the genes with which you are born can be changed during your lifetime by the environment and by chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. This process is known as epigenetics.
Researchers in the PNR&D looked at the epigenetic changes in patients with type 2 diabetes and a condition known as peripheral neuropathy, a problem where the nerves can’t correctly carry information to and from the body to the brain. Peripheral neuropathy causes pain and loss of feeling in the arms and legs and disability.
Drs. Sarah Elzinga, Stephanie Eid and Kai Guo, PNR&D scientists, discovered that the greater the number of epigenetic changes there are in nerves, the more severe the peripheral neuropathy in patients.
“These findings are extremely important,” said Eva Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., who is the article’s senior author and PNR&D Director. “We have discovered changes in genes that associate with nerve damage in type 2 diabetes. Our next step is to identify the new proteins these genes make, and how these proteins can serve as new targets for drug therapy. The future is finally bright for this difficult disease.”
There is currently no treatment for diabetic peripheral neuropathy although more than 15 million Americans suffer from the disorder. To read more about diabetes and neuropathy, visit www.pnrdfeldman.org/diabetes. The article “Genome-wide DNA methylation profiling of human diabetic peripheral neuropathy in subjects with type 2 diabetes mellitus” was published by Epigenetics in May.