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The role of gut bacteria in type 2 diabetes development

Project summary

The bacteria in our gut plays an important role in our health, and changes could contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes. Dr Caroline Le Roy wants to study the gut bacteria of people with various stages of type 2 diabetes to find specific changes in bacteria during the development of their condition. This information could potentially help us to prevent or reverse the effects of type 2 diabetes.

Background to research

The human gut has a huge variety of different bacteria living inside it. These bacteria are crucial to a healthy digestive system, as well as health in general. Recent research has suggested certain bacteria in the gut could influence the future development of type 2 diabetes.

In addition, new research has shown that changes in molecules called short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) could potentially contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes. SCFAs are produced by bacteria in the intestines.

We currently don’t understood how gut bacteria might go on to trigger the development of type 2 diabetes, but changes to SCFAs could be a potential candidate.

Research aims

Dr Le Roy wants to study bacteria taken from the guts of a range of different people with type 2 diabetes. A registry called TwinsUK has gathered faecal samples from sets of twins across several years. Dr Le Roy has found samples from twins who had type 2 diabetes at the time of collection, twins who developed type 2 diabetes afterwards, and twins who were at very high risk of type 2 diabetes (or ‘pre-diabetes’). She also has several samples from people without diabetes.

Using a type of scanner called a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer, Dr Le Roy will detect the levels of SCFAs and other important molecules in the samples from the twins. She will then compare the different levels across the different sample groups to understand if changes in the gut bacteria are linked in any way to the development of type 2 diabetes.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

Understanding how type 2 diabetes develops is crucial in finding more effective ways to prevent it. If this project is successful, it could help us find more reliable and accurate way of establishing someone’s risk of type 2 diabetes, alongside new therapies to help manage or even reverse the effects of type 2 diabetes.

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