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Researchers Discover How Obesity Leads To Diabetes

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Researchers are one step closer to finding a drug that could prevent diabetes. Scientists at Monash University have found the link between obesity and type 2 diabetes. Though obesity is associated as a leading cause of diabetes, no one has understood the exact mechanism of how obesity inhibits the body’s ability to use insulin leading to type 2 diabetes until now.

Associate Professor Matthew Watt led the research. His team has discovered that fat in the body releases a protein called PEDF (pigment epithelium-derived factor) that when released makes the body less sensitive to insulin, leading to diabetes. According to Dr. Watt, “The pancreas then produces more insulin to counteract these negative effects”. Over time, the pancreas become less efficient at producing insulin from the increased demand to control blood sugar levels in diabetes.

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Watt explains that the more fat an individual has the less sensitive the body becomes to insulin that controls blood sugar levels. His team found that blocking the effect of PEDF reversed the harmful effects of insulin resistance. The body no longer needed large amounts of insulin to control blood sugar levels when the researchers blocked the protein that is now linked to the development of diabetes.

"Until now scientists knew there was a very clear pattern and had strong suspicions that a link existed between the two conditions, but our understanding of the chain of events that are caused by the release of PEDF shows a causal link," says Watt. The new study shows more clearly how obesity contributes to diabetes.

The good news is that new drugs could be developed to reduce the burden of diabetes on individuals that block formation of the the protein PEDF. Researchers know that weight loss can help control diabetes, but the cascade of events that occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin can make weight loss difficult. The study shows a causal link between PEDF produced by fat cells in obese individuals that leads to type 2 diabetes.

Cell Metabolism, Volume 10, Issue 1, 40-47, 8 July 2009