Identification of Insulin-Clearing Protein Could Lead to Cure for Type 2 Diabetes. Researchers have identified a protein in the liver that helps clear insulin from blood, a discovery that could eventually lead to a cure for type 2 diabetes.
Scientists have long believed that type 2 diabetes begins when the body’s muscles, fat tissues, and liver stop responding to insulin. Insulin brings sugar from blood into muscle and fat tissues to be stored as fuel and stops the liver from making its own sugar. Lack of response to insulin in type 2 diabetes leads to increased sugar levels in blood.
Sonia M. Najjar, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmacology and therapeutics at the Medical College of Ohio, contends that type 2 diabetes may actually begin a step before the body starts resisting insulin.
Using genetically modified mice, Najjar showed that when there is increased fat in the body, the liver’s ability to clear insulin is impaired. This, in turn, can lead to insulin resistance in the liver and other tissues, resulting in type 2 diabetes.
This finding, coupled with the identification of CEACAM1, a liver protein that controls insulin clearance, may play a major role in the battle against type 2 diabetes. Najjar’s report on the function of the CEACAM1 protein in insulin clearance will be published in the March 2002 issue of Nature Genetics and can be read online at the journal’s Website.
Type 2 diabetes affects 16 million people in the United States and is often linked to obesity. Increased obesity results in younger and younger individuals being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Deaths related to obesity now rank second only to deaths related to tobacco. And diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States.
Finding a cure for type 2 diabetes becomes more vital as more and younger Americans become obese. "I can easily envision a drug that enhances the function of this protein and leads to a cure for type 2 diabetes," Najjar said.
The National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the American Diabetes Association currently sponsor Najjar’s research, previously funded by the Medical College of Ohio Foundation.