Health News and Research ...
Scarring key to link
between obesity and diabetes
Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found that a
protein that can cause scarring of fat tissue could be key to
understanding the link between obesity and type 2 diabetes.
The team, in collaboration with University Hospital Aintree,
the University of Warwick and researchers in Sweden, found
that people classified as obese and those with
pre-diabetes have raised levels of a protein called
SPARC, that can cause tissue scarring. The research revealed
that an increase in insulin, a hormone that controls blood
sugar levels, and leptin, a hormone that regulates appetite,
can trigger an increase in SPARC, which can prevent the proper
storage of fat in fat tissue cells.
It is thought that leptin, in an attempt to balance energy
levels in the body, could trigger SPARC to limit the storage
of fat. SPARC can do this by increasing the formation of scars
in fat tissue, which can prevent fat being stored safely in
the body. Researchers found that this process could predispose
obese patients to type 2 diabetes.
Professor John Wilding, from the University's School of
Clinical Science, explains: "We tested fat tissue of patients
at University Hospital Aintree and found that an increase in
leptin also increases SPARC levels, which reduces the safe
storage of fat through the development of abnormal tissue
scarring. Scarring of fat tissue is known to increase as we
gain weight and we found that this is exacerbated by leptin,
as well as an increase in insulin, produced by the pancreas."
Dr Katarina Kos, lead author of the research, added: "Leptin
is produced in fat cells to regulate appetite, but the body
becomes resistant to the effects of appetite reduction in
obese patients. Leptin continues to increase in response to
overall fat mass and promotes scarring through increased SPARC
levels. Once scarring occurs, the excess nutritional energy
from fat cannot be taken up by fat cells and so remains in the
blood and begins to gather around organs. As a result, fat
cells of people classified as obese, may not fulfil their
natural purpose to store fat."
Diabetes is caused by the cells' inability to respond to
insulin, which would normally enable uptake of sugar
from the blood. To compensate, the pancreas creates more
insulin to clear blood sugar from the circulation. The
pancreas becomes exhausted and is unable to produce sufficient
insulin to keep up with the demands of the body. This
results in the development of type 2 diabetes, which can
cause problems such as lack of energy to the cells and,
over time, damage to the eyes, kidneys and heart.
The research team, working with the Swedish fast food study
group at Linkoping University, also found that weight gain,
induced by more than doubling calorie intake through eating
'junk food', causes SPARC levels to increase by 33%. In a
further study with the University of Gothenburg, scientists
found that a reduced calorie diet can decrease SPARC levels
and the stimulus for tissue scarring.
Researchers are now investigating why some people are more
prone to fat tissue scarring than others and how further
understanding of SPARC could contribute to future treatments
University of Liverpool 08 09
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