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Epigenetics and metabolism: what do we know?

Written by Jenny Straiton (Assistant Editor)

Researchers have summarized the field of metabolism-linked epigenetics, examining type 2 diabetes and obesity, detailing current understanding and questioning what is unknown.

The field of epigenetics  has grown exponentially in the past decade, with many gene-environment interactions having been linked to disorders. In a review, recently published in Cell Metabolism, two researchers from Lund University (Sweden) have summarized the state of the field of metabolism linked epigenetics with respect to the epigenetics linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes.

“We now know that epigenetic mechanisms play an important role in disease development.”

Detailing the role of epigenetic mechanisms relevant for metabolism, the review covers how disruptions in such mechanisms in various tissues can lead to disease. Tissue types mentioned in the review include adipose tissue, skeletal muscle, pancreatic islets, liver and blood.

“Epigenetics is still a relatively new research field; however, we now know that epigenetic mechanisms play an important role in disease development. Similarly, the epigenetic patterns are affected by disease. Variations in genetic material (DNA), age, exercise and diet also have an impact on epigenetic variation,” commented review co-author Charlotte Ling.


Lifestyle factors discussed include diet and its significance, physical activity and the effect of aging. The review also comments on the significance of genes in the disorders, whether the epigenome is heritable and whether epigenetics has the potential to contribute to novel treatments.