Dr. James C. Lo, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, and colleagues have published critical findings on type 2 diabetes in Nature Medicine. The paper is focused on adipsin, a protein produced by fat cells, and its relationship to type 2 diabetes.
When insulin-secreting cells (beta cells) are not working properly in people with type 2 diabetes, injecting insulin becomes necessary to keep blood glucose levels stable. In their Nature Medicine paper (November 7, 2019), Dr. Lo and team followed several lines of study that yielded significant advances towards improved treatment for type 2 diabetes. First, they increased adipsin levels in mice with type 2 diabetes and found that blood sugar levels improved and helped to prevent beta cell death. They then collaborated on human studies that involved 5,570 people from the Framingham Heart Study. In their studies, they discovered that adipsin activates the C3a molecule, which in turn protects beta cell function. They also found that C3a suppresses an enzyme known as DUSP26, which damages beta cells and causes them to die. The investigators then decided to directly block DUSP26 activity in human beta cells and found that this approach protected beta cells from death.
Dr. Lo and colleagues hope that by using adipsin or DUSP26 therapies, patients with type 2 diabetes will be spared from developing beta cell failure and thus spared from insulin injections.