It’s been clear now for decades that obesity is somehow linked to the development of diabetes. As Americans have grown to staggering proportions, diabetes diagnoses have risen accordingly, even among teens. Exactly why this is the case isn’t fully understood, but researchers are now closing in on some answers.
A new study published in the journal Cell Reports suggests that the link between obesity and diabetes could be related to the absence of a specific protein integral to insulin signalling. Researchers from the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) have found that a protein dubbed NUCKS is simply missing in the bodies of obese people.
The NUCKS protein is part of a process that allows the human body to respond to insulin hormones. Without it, the body has a more difficult time of regulating blood glucose levels, leading to insulin resistance and consistently high blood glucose levels associated with the development of diabetes.
“It is alarming that obesity is a huge risk factor for many ailments, including diabetes,” said Vinay Teraonkar, lead scientist on the study and a researcher at the IMDB. “Having identified this protein, we are now a step closer towards removing one of these complications from individuals suffering from obesity.”
According to the study’s authors, the NUCKS discovery is the first direct molecular link found between obesity and the risk of diabetes. The finding could also eventually lead to treatments for obese people such as drugs or prescribed lifestyle therapies that could raise the prevalence of NUCKS in their bodies, cutting their risk for developing diabetes.
“IMCB is now focusing research on molecular mechanisms underlying diseases, which is important in developing future treatments for prevailing human diseases,” said Hong Wanjin, executive director for the IMCB. “We are excited to be a pioneer in uncovering a molecular link between these two common health problems. The incidence of metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity has been rising over the years, and these findings will prove valuable in further developing therapeutic approaches for them.”
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