Insulin uses two distinct mechanisms to control glucose and the metabolism of blood fats (lipids) in the liver, a new Joslin Diabetes Center-led study has discovered. Failures in each of these networks can lead to serious health problems: the breakdown of glucose metabolism that can lead to type 2 diabetes, and the malfunction of lipid metabolism contributing to metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of conditions that puts people at increased risk of heart disease, vascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
The new study, led by C. Ronald Kahn, M.D., and Cullen Taniguchi, M.D., Ph.D., of Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston and their colleagues, is published in the May 2006 edition of Cell Metabolism. The findings open the door to the development of new treatments that one day may target directly the conditions that contribute to type 2 diabetes and the metabolic syndrome. “Patients with the metabolic syndrome have high levels of both glucose and lipids in the blood. We now understand that insulin that controls the pathways that control glucose levels are different from those that regulate lipid levels. By targeting these specific pathways, we might be able to improve problems with glucose metabolism, lipid metabolism or both,” says Kahn, president of Joslin Diabetes Center and Mary K. Iacocca Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.