A BREAKTHROUGH in understanding how people respond to lifestyle treatment for preventing type 2 diabetes has been made at the University of Stirling, experts claim.

The team, including academics from the Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, discovered a new genomic signature in people whose type 2 diabetes status improves following a treatment intervention.

Significantly, it is the first reliable signature for insulin sensitivity in human muscle.

The findings were published in leading journal Nucleic Acids Research and it is believe they will inform future research by helping understand why not all people are able to eliminate the risk of the condition by changing their lifestyle.

Dr Iain J Gallagher, one of the research team, said: “Our hypothesis was that, with sufficient numbers of well characterised subjects and our new analysis methods, we could reveal a robust signature for what is known as ‘insulin resistance’ – an important precursor for developing type 2 diabetes.

“Importantly, because we could also examine how the activation status of each ‘insulin resistance’ gene responded to treatment, we have also discovered a potential explanation for why not all people eliminate their type 2 diabetes risk by following a lifestyle and exercise training programme.”

Led by Dr William Kraus of Duke University in North Carolina and Professor James Timmons from King’s College London, the international team analysed more than 1,000 human muscle samples and five distinctive treatment regimes.

They demonstrated that 16 genes are consistently “switched” on or off in muscle tissue, but only in those people whose type 2 diabetes risk factors improved.

In such cases, the gene changes increased the individuals’ insulin sensitivity – a measure of how effectively the hormone insulin is working.