Epigenetics in Type 2 Diabetes
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T2D has become a major health issue over the past decades, and ultimately this could benefit the discovery of new treatment or prevention strategies to relieve the pressure on the health care system. Long before T2D onset, pathologic alterations are already present. The two primary mechanisms leading to T2D are insulin resistance and impaired insulin secretion by the beta cells of the pancreas. Both defects are required in order to progress to T2D. In the early phase of T2D development, beta cells can still compensate for the insulin resistance by increasing their insulin secretion. However, this has a limit and after the maximal capacity is reached, beta cells lose their function and insulin secretion declines. Epigenetics have been implicated in T2D development, since they are known to link environmental factors to the genome. Epigenetics include DNA methylation, histone modifications, and chromatin structure remodeling. Bulk studies have already identified a number of epigenetic alterations in disease-relevant tissues for T2D. With the technological advances also single-cell methods are being developed and used. The main reason that such techniques are important is the heterogeneity of tissue samples currently used for study, which masks important single-cell effects. However, adaptation to single-cell methods still faces a number of challenges, yet with the rapid technological developments the future for single-cell epigenomic studies looks promising.