Research Highlight

Fast forward aging link in diabetes

doi:10.1038/nindia.2012.53 Published online 17 April 2012

Researchers have shown a molecular connection between the nuclear and mitochondrial aging processes that occur in patients with type 2 diabetes.

The human body has a chronological age as also a biological age. The biological age is represented by the length of telomere — the DNA sequence at the end of each chromosome, like the plastic tips on shoelaces. The telomeres get shorter each time a cell divides. Short telomeres reflect accelerated ageing.

Many recently discovered genes that can be manipulated to slow the aging process also belong to pathways involved in the control of metabolism. Metabolic syndrome, in addition to being a precursor of metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and cardiovascular disease, has been shown to be a sign of premature aging. Diabetes is a state of accelerated aging.

While telomere shortening is associated with T2DM, there is a lack of studies that explore the relationship among all the biomarkers — telomere length, oxidative stress, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) content, and the levels of adiponectin (a protein produced by fat cells that may play an important role in the development of obesity).

The researchers reasoned that the susceptibility to develop T2DM and cardiovascular diseases in Asian Indians could be explained by studying all these emerging biomarkers. "In a clinical setting, we have shown the existence of a molecular connection between the nuclear and mitochondrial ageing processes which occur in patients with type 2 diabetes," says lead author Muthuswamy Balasubramanyam.

Unlike chronological aging, accelerated aging can be reversed. "In other words, maintenance of appropriate mitochondrial function and telomere length either by pharmacological means or lifestyle modification will have promising therapeutic potential for Type 2 diabetes and associated vascular disorders", he adds.

The authors of this work are from: Madras Diabetes Research Foundation and Dr. Mohan's Diabetes Specialities Centre, Chennai, India.


  1. Monickaraj, F. et al. Accelerated aging as evidenced by increased telomere shortening and mitochondrial DNA depletion in patients with type 2 diabetes. Mol. Cell Biochem. doi: 10.1007/s11010-012-1276-0 (2012)