Protein targeted as diabetes treatment

Tue, 27 Mar 2012
Scientists in Spain have revealed the importance of a single protein for treating patients with type 2 diabetes.

In laboratory experiments on mice, carried out at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) in Barcelona and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), it was found that deficiency of a protein called Mitofusin 2 in the muscle and hepatic cells could result in tissues becoming insensitive to insulin and lead to an increase in concentrations of blood glucose. Both of these conditions are common before the development of diabetes type 2.

Previous research at IRB Barcelona had shown that patients who were obese and had type 2 diabetes also had low levels of muscle Mitofusin 2, which manages the insulin signalling pathway in the liver and muscles, and that such deficiency causes changes in mitochondria and the endoplasmic reticulum, important for proper cell functioning. The report showed that the accumulation of dysfunctions in the two structures changes cell behaviour and favours the development of pre-diabetes symptoms.

Study leader Antonio Zorzano, a professor at the University of Barcelona and coordinator of the Molecular Medicine Programme at IRB Barcelona, said "Resistance to insulin plays a key role in the development of diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia (alteration of lipid concentrations) and obesity. Mitofusin 2 may provide a specific target for the development of drugs that could hold back a disease that affects millions of people worldwide."
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