Researchers at the Medical College of Ohio have identified a protein in the liver that helps clear insulin from blood, a discovery which could eventually lead to a cure for type 2 diabetes.
Scientists believe that type 2 diabetes is caused when the body's muscles, fat tissues and liver stop responding to insulin, the agent which transfers sugar from the blood into the tissue to be used as fuel. Insulin also stops the liver from making its own sugar, and so type 2 diabetes suffers tend to have increased blood sugar levels.
But Professor Sonia M Najjar claims to have shown that type 2 diabetes may actually begin a step before the body starts resisting insulin. Using genetically modified mice, Najjar found that the body has difficulty in clearing insulin when there is increased fat in the body, in turn leading to insulin resistance in the liver and other tissues and resulting in type 2 diabetes.
Najjar's discovery, coupled with the identification of CEACAM1, a liver protein which controls insulin clearance, could play a major role in finding a cure for type 2 diabetes. Deaths related to obesity - a major risk factor for diabetes - now rank second only to deaths related to tobacco in the US, while diabetes itself is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States.
Najjar's research is published in the March 2002 edition of the journal Nature Genetics, and is sponsored by the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the American Diabetes Association. The Medical College of Ohio Foundation sponsored the initial phase of her studies.