Protein linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes identified
According to a study published in Nature Medicine, researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Center have made new discoveries about the link between obesity and diabetes. The team led by Dr. Philipp Scherer, director of the Touchstone Center for Diabetes Research at UT Southwestern, found that MitoNEET protein, that is a key component of a cell’s mitochondrion, is involved in the pathology of obesity.
The body stores the excess energy in adipose tissue and these deposits may disappear if one exercise and eat healthy. Now researchers have shown that by manipulating the components of mitochondria, can influence storing excess calories into “good” locations.
Experiments conducted on laboratory animals have shown that when the MitoNEET is elevated in rodents, the deposition of fat in the tissue adipos increases. Researchers showed that this mechanism can result in morbid obesity in rodents but this metabolic imbalance does not lead to diabetes mellitus. In other words, rodents , even obese, they were healthy. However, if MitoNEET protein level is low, the rats were lean but unhealthy as diabetes began to settle. Obese mice used in the study had about 120 to 130 grams (4.23 to 4.58 ounces), while healthy mice does not exceed 25 to 30 grams.
Dr. Scherer, senior author of the three-year study and Professor of Internal Medicine and Cell Biology at UTSW, said that handling some components of mitochondria can be extremely helpful in manipulating adipose tissue and the use of fat. He added that it was underestimated the importance of mitochondrial pathway in the metabolism and weight loss management.
The researchers mentioned that the study does not promotes the idea that obesity is a good thing but it shows the importance of mitochondrial pathways and the link between diabetes and obesity. Dr. Christine Kusminski, a postdoctoral researcher in Internal Medicine who served as the study’s first author, said she hoped the further understanding of the mechanisms underlying obesity and diabetes can help to develop targeted therapies in the future.
Obesity and diabetes are strongly interconnetected. It seems that obesity contributes to the onset of diabetes by several mechanisms: excess free fatty acids, leptin, adiponectin, inflammatory cytokines (interleukin-1, interleukin-6, TNF-alpha), etc.. In addition, studies have shown that diabetes is 4-5 times more common in obese people aged between 20 and 40 years, and that there is a high risk of cardiovascular disease among these individuals. Obesity and diabetes are among the criteria of the metabolic syndrome, along with hypertension, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol.