High levels of the peptide proneurotensin could be used to predict risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and death in women, according to a new observational study.
Dr Olle Melander, of Lund University in Malmo, Swede, and colleagues assessed proneurotensin levels in 4600 healthy individuals at the beginning of the 1990s and followed them for 13 to 15 years.
They found a significant association between higher levels of proneurotensin and increased incidence of diabetes, cardiovascular disease (heart attack and stroke), breast cancer and death, including cardiovascular mortality, although the connection was seen only in women.
The researchers reported that onset of disease or death was preceded by higher levels of proneurotensin for several years, indicating that it may be a “marker of underlying disease susceptibility rather than an expression of subclinical disease”.
Melander explained that the peptide neurotensin was actually the main focus of their research, but because the related peptide, proneurotensi, is more stable and produced in the same quantities, they measured its levels instead.
He added that genetic studies have already started to “investigate whether the relationship between neurotensin and diabetes/cardiovascular disease is causal or if neurotensin is just increased in parallel with something else that is causal”.
The results were published in the October 10, 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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