New mechanism links type-2 diabetes to obesity

8 April 2011

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Category: Research & medical benefits

how–vaccine.jpgScientists have discovered a mechanism linking type-2 diabetes to obesity. Understanding the mechanism could lead to new treatments for the condition. Type-2 diabetes affects 2.8 million people in the UK. If untreated, raised blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Obesity increases your chances of developing diabetes: over four fifths of patients with type-2 diabetes are overweight or obese. Scientists now think a small microRNA molecule, called microRNA-143, may be responsible for the link.

Researchers compared the levels of microRNA-143 in the livers of normal and obese mice. The found obese mice produced more than twice as much microRNA-143 than normal mice.

Insulin regulates blood sugar levels: if there is too much glucose in the blood, insulin opens up the glucose transport channels in the cell membranes of muscle and fat cells, causing blood sugar levels to drop. Insulin also stops the liver producing more glucose.

Type-2 diabetics still produce enough insulin, but it doesn't have the desired effect on muscle and fat cells. It is thought microRNA-143 stops insulin working effectively in the body. MicroRNA-143 silences genes linked to an enzyme called AKT and so stops insulin activating AKT. AKT is important for glucose transport into cells and for stopping glucose production in the liver.

Researchers do not yet know why obese mice form more microRNA-143 than normal mice. Understanding this could lead to new treatments for diabetes.

Read more about animal research and diabetes here.