Researchers have discovered that a particular type of protein (hormone) found in fat cells helps regulate how glucose (blood sugar) is controlled and metabolized in the liver.
Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers have discovered that a particular type of protein (hormone) found in fat cells helps regulate how glucose (blood sugar) is controlled and metabolized (used for energy) in the liver. Using experimental models and state-of-the-art technology, the scientists found that switching off this protein leads to better control of glucose production from the liver, revealing a potential new target that may be used to treat type 2 diabetes and other metabolic diseases.The study appears online in the May 7, 2013 issue of Cell Metabolism.
"Although it has long been recognized that a key event leading to development of type 2 diabetes is uncontrolled glucose production from the liver, underlying mechanisms have been elusive," said senior author Gökhan S. Hotamisligil, chair of the Department of Genetics and Complex Diseases and J.S. Simmons Professor of Genetics and Metabolism at HSPH. "We now have identified aP2 as a novel hormone released from fat cells that controls this critical function."
The ability of one organ -- in this case, the adipose tissue -- to so directly and profoundly control the actions of another -- the liver -- is in itself very exciting, said Hotamisligil. "We suspect this communication system between adipose tissue and liver may have evolved to help fat cells command the liver to supply the body with glucose in times of nutrient deprivation. However, when the engorged fat cells lose control over this signal in obesity, the blood levels of aP2 rise, glucose is poured into the bloodstream and cannot be cleared by other tissues. The result is high blood glucose levels and type 2 diabetes."