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Researchers discover protein that indicates diabetes risk

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Researchers discover protein that indicates diabetes risk

Researchers at Lund University have discovered a new way to diagnose type 2 diabetes. According to a study published in the journal Cell Metabolism, a protein called SFRP4 can predict risk of diabetes many years before it is clinically manifest.

Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disease characterized by high levels of glucose in the blood. Diabetes is asymptomatic for a long time, but after several years of development, diabetes can result in polyuria, polydipsia and polyphagia. These manifestations are due to increased levels of glucose that accumulate in the blood instead of entering the cells. Normally after food intake, glucose passes into the bloodstream from intestinal tract and then, passes into cells using insulin as transporter. If insulin is insufficient or if there is insulin resistance (obesity), glucose remains in the blood and so hyperglycemia occurs.

Blood samples

Blood samples

Hyperglycemia leads to serious complications. It can affect blood vessels, leading to kidney complications (diabetic nephropathy) and eye complications (diabetic blindness), or even diabetic acidosis. Finally diabetic coma occurs. Although diabetes is a disease that does not hurt, it is very important that this condition be diagnosed and treated properly.

Currently, type 2 diabetes is diagnosed using blood tests: measurement of blood glucose levels and glycosylated hemoglobin. But these tests diagnose diabetes when it is already installed.

The new test consists of measuring the SFRP4 that can predict diabetes several years before. Anders Rosengren, a researcher at the Lund University Diabetes Centre (LUDC), who has led the work on the risk marker, said the study showed that individuals with high levels of SFRP4 have a 5 times higher risk to develop diabetes in coming years.
SFRP4 is a protein with a role in inflammatory processes in the body. Researchers have realized the importance of this protein when they noticed that diabetic patients had increased levels of blood SFRP4. In diabetes pancreatic beta cells that secrete insulin have a chronic inflammatory process, which prevents them from producing insulin.

Taman Mahdi, main author of the study and one of the Researchers in Anders Rosengren’s group, said the SFRP 4 explains the link between inflammation and diabetes. SFRP Level 4 was measured in diabetics and non-diabetics every 3 years. It was found that 37% of those who initially had high levels of SFRP4 developed diabetes while only 9% of those with low levels of SFRP4 made diabetes. Researchers are now confident that they can develop a new treatment for diabetes by blocking protein SFRP4.