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Diabetes is characterized by specific intestinal flora

26 September 2012 VIB

Whether you have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, in the future may be derived from the composition of your intestinal flora. That according to new metagenomics research of an international consortium of scientists, including Jeroen Raes, connected to VIB and Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Metagenomics is the study of the genetic material of complete ecosystems, in this case the human intestine. This study appears in the leading journal Nature.

Diabetes type 2
Diabetes is an incurable metabolic disorder, in which the body is unable to get enough energy from sugars. Especially type 2 diabetes has become an alarming global problem in recent years. There has been an enormous increase in the number of type 2 diabetes patients, even at a younger age. Both genetic as well as environmental factors play a role in the development of the disease. Until now, scientists have focused primarily on identifying genetic markers in the human itself. Recent research has shown that other factors, such as intestinal flora, play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes.

Metagenomics
To determine the effect of the intestinal flora on our health, tremendous efforts have been made worldwide in the recent years. In order to assess the billions of flora in and on our bodies (the human microbiome), nowadays the genetic information of all flora are researched together (metagenomics). A recent metagenomics study, where Jeroen Raes provided his contribution, shows that people can be divided into 3 groups based on the flora in the large intestine, the so-called enterotypes.

Intestinal flora study in type 2 diabetes patients
In the present study, Jeroen Raes, Gwen Falony, Shujiro Okuda together with their colleagues from the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI, Shenzhen, China), have identified certain bacterial genes as markers for type 2 diabetes. Before that, they investigated intestinal samples of 345 Chinese patients with type 2 diabetes.

This study indicates the typical characteristics of the intestinal flora of type 2 diabetes patients. "It's a typical flora for someone with a mild form of gastroenteritis" says Jeroen Raes. "Now it is also important to include the Western population to see if these markers may be predictors - then the path is open for early diagnostic tests". Moreover, this microbiome study also serves as a model for future research on markers of other diseases, work already underway at the VIB-lab, including on the basis of the Flemish Intestinal Flora Project.

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