German researchers have unlocked a previously unknown mechanism as to why people with diabetes have a higher risk of long-term complications.
Scientists have identified inflammatory processes in the liver which increase cholesterol in people with diabetes. This, researchers believe, could promote the development of vascular diseases.
They also discovered a molecule called GAbp (GA-binding protein) which provides a protective effect against vascular diseases, and could be important in preventing complications.
“Our data suggest that the liver plays a key role in the development of common diabetic vascular diseases,” said first author Dr. Katharina Niopek, researcher at the Institute for Diabetes and Cancer (IDC) at Helmholtz Zentrum Minchen.
“GAbp appears to be a molecular regulator at the interface between inflammation, cholesterol homeostasis and atherosclerosis. Without its protective effect, this leads to hypercholesterolemia and increased lipid deposition in the arteries.”
The researchers had aimed to identify why people with diabetes who have good blood glucose control were still at a higher risk of complications compared to those without the condition.
They examined inflammatory processes in type 2 diabetes and obesity, which both contribute to long-term complications, and demonstrated that inflammation caused by metabolic disorders increases the production reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the liver.
When ROS production is heightened, this prevents GAbp from working, leading to greater levels of cholesterol and symptoms of atherosclerosis.
“Since initial patient data supported our findings, the new signalling pathway – regardless of how well the blood glucose levels of the patient are controlled – may be a key component in the development of long-term diabetes complications which could be utilized therapeutically,” added lead author Professor Stephan Herzig.
The study has been published in the journal Cell Reports.

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