Tokyo University team’s findings could help find diabetes cure

TOKYO (MCT) — A group of researchers led by a Tokyo University Hospital professor has unraveled the mechanism behind visceral fat-induced diabetes, which could lead to the development of new drugs for the disease.

The team, led by Prof. Takashi Kadowaki of the hospital’s diabetic and metabolic diseases department, published its findings in Nature Medicine, a U.S. medical magazine.

When visceral fat accumulates — most often in overweight middle-aged people and the elderly — the amount of a hormone called adiponectin, found in fat cells, decreases.

It was known that adiponectin can lower blood sugar and neutral fat levels. Thus a decline in its secretion would cause metabolic syndrome, which can result in life-style-related diseases, such as diabetes.

However, up until now, the inner workings of the process have been unclear.

The researchers found two types of protein on the surface of mouse liver cells. When the proteins and adiponectin conjoin, blood sugar and neutral fat levels fall, boosting fat-burning functions. However, obese mice with accumulated visceral fat have fewer of these proteins on the surface of their liver cells. Conversely, the researchers found when these proteins increased in number, blood sugar levels would decline.

Kadowaki said even if the quantity of adiponectin decreased in obese people, diabetes could be cured if the quantity of the proteins was increased.