In this week's Nature, a team led by Imperial College London researchers presents data showing that changes in DNA methylation patterns can be used to identify people at higher risk of developing type II diabetes. In their epigenome-wide association study, the investigators uncovered DNA methylation changes associated with body-mass index. In prospective studies, these methylation markers strongly predicted who was likely to develop type 2 diabetes independently of conventional risk factors. The researchers also showed that the altered methylation patterns were a result of obesity, not a cause, and that some are found in genomic regions tied to metabolism, inflammation, and cardiovascular and respiratory disease.
Meanwhile, in Nature Genetics, collaborators from the Whitehead Institute and the Broad Institute publishes a study that identified novel cellular factors necessary for HIV infection using a CRISPR/Cas9 screen. The genome-editing technology was used to create a library of T cells in which the vast majority of genes in the human genome were individually inactivated. These cells were then infected with HIV and screened for genes that, when mutated, led to infection resistance. Five such genes were found, including three previously unknown to be involved in HIV, and then validated using T cells from healthy humans. The work not only offers insights into how to potentially combat HIV, but offers a screening strategy that can be applied to other infectious diseases, the researchers say.