People with type 2 diabetes tend to have poorer muscle function than others.
In a new study from Lund University in Sweden, researchers found that in type 2 diabetes, a specific gene is of great importance for the ability of muscle stem cells to create new mature muscle cells.
They found in people with type 2 diabetes, the VPS39 gene is less active in the muscle cells than it is in other people, and the stem cells with less activity of the gene do not form new muscle cells to the same degree.
The gene is important when muscle cells absorb sugar from the blood and build new muscle.
In type 2 diabetes, the ability to produce insulin is impaired, and patients have chronically elevated blood sugar.
Muscles are generally worse at absorbing sugar from food, and muscle function and strength are impaired in patients with type 2 diabetes.
A muscle consists of a mixture of fiber types with different properties. Throughout life, muscle tissue has the ability to form new muscle fibers.
There are also immature muscle stem cells that are activated in connection with, for example, injury or exercise.
In the current study, the researchers examined 14 participants with type 2 diabetes and 14 healthy people in a control group.
They studied epigenetic changes in the muscle stem cells in both groups, and under exactly the same conditions, they also extracted mature muscle cells and compared them.
In total, they identified 20 genes, including VPS39, whose gene expression differed between the groups in both immature muscle stem cells and mature muscle cells.
The team found more than twice as many epigenetic changes in the type 2 diabetes group during the differentiation from muscle stem cell to mature muscle cells.
Muscle-specific genes were not regulated normally, and epigenetics did not function in the same way in cells from people with type 2 diabetes.
The study clearly showed that muscle stem cells that lack the function of the gene VPS39, which is lower in type 2 diabetes, also lack the ability to form new mature muscle cells.
The researchers believe that the findings open up new avenues for treating type 2 diabetes.
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The study is published in Nature Communications. One author of the study is Charlotte Ling.
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