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New Study Unravels Epigenetic Secrets of Human Pancreas Development and Implications for Monogenic Diabetes

Published on Sat Oct 21 2023

Researchers have made significant strides in understanding the development of the human pancreas, a crucial organ responsible for regulating blood glucose levels. A recent preprint paper titled "Developmentally dynamic changes in DNA methylation in the human pancreas" provides groundbreaking insights into the epigenetic mechanisms involved in pancreas development and their implications for diseases like monogenic diabetes.

The study involved analyzing DNA methylation patterns in human fetal pancreatic samples collected from donors aged 6 to 21 post-conception weeks. The researchers found dramatic and dynamic changes in DNA methylation across pancreas development, with over 21% of sites showing significant differences. These developmental differentially methylated positions (dDMPs) were associated with genes linked to monogenic diabetes, shedding light on how disruptions in DNA methylation patterns may contribute to these diseases.

Interestingly, the study also revealed sex-specific differences in DNA methylation in the pancreas. Some autosomal sites exhibited unique DNA methylation trajectories during pancreas development in males and females. This finding suggests that sex may influence the epigenetic regulation of pancreas development.

Furthermore, the researchers discovered that the observed changes in DNA methylation were largely confined to the prenatal period. Postnatal pancreas tissue showed age-related changes in DNA methylation that were distinct from the developmental changes observed in the fetal pancreas. This confirms that the prenatal period is a critical time of epigenomic plasticity in the pancreas.

The study's findings have important implications for understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying pancreas development. By mapping the DNA methylation changes associated with specific genes involved in diseases like monogenic diabetes, the researchers provide an avenue for further investigation into the role of epigenetics in these disorders. Additionally, the sex-specific DNA methylation patterns identified in this study highlight the need to consider sex differences in future studies of pancreas development.

Overall, this study represents a significant advance in our understanding of the dynamic changes in DNA methylation during human fetal pancreas development. The findings provide valuable insights into the molecular processes driving pancreas development and offer new avenues for research into diseases affecting the pancreas.


Written by MacCalman, A., De Franco, E., Franklin, A., Flaxman, C. S., Richardson, S. J., Murrall, K., Barts Pancreas Tissue Bank,, Burrage, J., Walker, E., Morgan, N. G., Hattersley, A., Dempster, E. L., Hannon, E., Jeffries, A. R., Owens, N. D. L., Mill, J.

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