Home Features Best of 2011 Best of 2011 // 81: Fighting Diabetes With Inflammation?

Best of 2011 // 81: Fighting Diabetes With Inflammation?

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Best of 2011 // 81: Fighting Diabetes With Inflammation?

The rise of the obesity epidemic has also led to a rise in type 2 diabetes, a condition in which muscles and fat become resistant to insulin, a hormone that moves glucose into the tissues.  The health ramifications of this disease are wide-ranging: it can lead to heart disease, damage the nerves and even death.  The search for a cure has been ongoing.  It turns out, however, that researchers may have missed a critical clue about diabetes, simply by focusing on the wrong root cause of the disease./READ MORE// Did Modern Man Steal Technology from Neanderthals?

Research has long linked type 2 Diabetes to chronic inflammation, which was thought to be caused by a ramping up of the immune system, which eventually led to damaged insulin receptors.  In September, Umut Ozcan, obesity researcher at Children’s Hospital Boston noted that a key inflammatory protein (called XBP-1S) was actually reducing insulin resistance in obese diabetic mice, even curing them of the disease.  XBP-1S turns on genes that control assembly of other proteins that keep insulin functions working correctly.

Ozcan theorized that inflammation could help, after noting that XBP-1S failed to enter the cell nucleus, the place where insulin function was regulated.  Ozcan then added inflammatory inducing chemicals to mouse cells, in oder to activate the protein, sensitivity to insulin improved.

That contradicts the belief that inflammation guides diabetes.

“We were shocked…It showed that not all inflammatory signals are harmful”
– Umut Ozcan

Armed with the knowledge that inflammation can improve insulin signalling, instead of harming it, could be a key fact in the next age of diabetes treatment, one that would see molecules targeted inside the inflammatory area.

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