A molecule has been identified which could cause many of the complications associated with type 2 diabetes, according to new research.
Scientists report the methylglyoxal (MG) molecule could be important in helping to delay or even prevent diabetes-related complications from developing.
MG is a byproduct of cells that helps create other molecules which can modify protein, DNA and fat cells. This process typically prevents molecules from functioning properly, and can trigger the development of complications such as stroke and heart attacks.
When researchers from Heidelberg University, Germany turned off the enzyme that breaks down MG in fruit flies, a build-up of MG occurred and the flies developed insulin resistance, a significant predictor of type 2 diabetes.
The flies also became obese over time and their blood sugar levels increased, indicating that MG balance is important, alongside maintaining good blood glucose control, in avoiding type 2 diabetes as well as related complications.
“We show here … that animals with elevated methylglyoxal recapitulate several core aspects of T2D: insulin resistance, obesity, and hyperglycemia,” said the researchers.
“Thus elevated MG could constitute one root cause of T2D, suggesting that the molecular causes of elevated MG warrant further study.”
Researchers previously believed that obesity and type 2 diabetes caused MG overactivity, but the findings published in Cell Metabolism suggest that MG imbalance occurs regardless of these factors.
Fruit flies have a different overall physiology to humans and the findings in the study are not guaranteed to apply as clearly in humans as they did in this study.
The researchers are now focusing on understanding why, even when people with diabetes have good blood sugar control, complications can still develop, and how significant a factor MG is.

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