Protein short circuits diabetes

2019-03-06 12:18:14

By Greg Miller A protein made by fat cells can restore insulin sensitivity to diabetic mice, say researchers in the US and Japan. The finding could one day lead to better treatments for diabetes, which affects an estimated 150 million people worldwide. In type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90 percent of diabetes cases, the body loses its ability to respond to insulin. This hormone is secreted by the pancreas and enables the tissues of the body to absorb the sugar glucose from the bloodstream and use it as a source of energy. As a result, high levels of glucose accumulate in the blood, leading to a variety of health problems. Philipp Scherer and colleagues at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York have found that a protein called Acrp30 lowers blood glucose levels when injected into diabetic mice. The team also showed that Acrp30 makes isolated liver cells more sensitive to insulin and causes the cells to cut back their glucose production. This is significant, Scherer says, because in diabetics the liver fails to respond to insulin and continues to crank out glucose even when blood levels are dangerously high. “This is a potential way of interfering in a positive way with this vicious circle,” he says. While the finding may point the way to new diabetes drugs, Scherer thinks Acrp30 will probably never be used as a drug itself. Proteins are not usually the best drugs, he says, because it is hard to make large quantities of them and they generally have to be injected. The receptor that Acrp30 acts on might be a more promising target for future diabetes drugs, Scherer says, but it has yet to be identified. Another study in the same issue of Nature Medicine examines the link between Acrp30 and obesity, a condition that can reduce insulin sensitivity and cause type 2 diabetes. Researchers at the University of Tokyo found that Acrp30 is deficient in obese mice and that injections of Acrp30 can restore insulin sensitivity. The Japanese team also reports that Acrp30 causes muscle to burn more fat – a feature that could be useful in treating obesity. Earlier this year, a French company, Genset,