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Glucose does not drive type 2 diabetes inflammation says study

By Editor
22nd August 2019
Research, Type 2 diabetes

Researchers from the University of Kentucky believe they have “shattered the prevailing assumption that glucose was the culprit” of underlying cause of inflammation in obesity and type 2 diabetes.

They say the results of a study published in Cell Metabolism show that changes to mitochondria – the powerhouse of cells – drives chronic inflammation from cells exposed to certain types of fats.

Chronic inflammation fuels many of the devastating complications of type 2 diabetes, including cardiovascular, kidney, and periodontal diseases. This new data may enlighten the conversation about tight glycaemic control as the dominant treatment goal for people with diabetes, the university said.

The research team led by Dr Barbara Nikolajczyk  and Douglas Lauffenberger did not set out to disprove the glucose-inflammation causation theory. Based on the importance of glycolysis – a 10-reaction sequence that produces energy – in other types of inflammation, the team hypothesised that immune cells from people with type 2 diabetes would produce energy by burning glucose. “We were wrong,” Dr Nikolajczyk said.

Dr Nikolajczyk said: “We exclusively used immune cells from human subjects for all of the work”, noting that humans, but not animal models of type 2 diabetes, have the specific pro-inflammatory T cell profile her team had identified in earlier research.

The team was surprised to find that glycolysis was not driving chronic inflammation. Instead, a combination of defects in mitochondria and elevated fat derivatives were responsible.

Dr Nikolajczyk said she sees applications for this research in both basic and clinical sciences. She hopes to precisely define pro-inflammatory lipid types and explore associations between circulating and, or, tissue-associated lipids and insulin resistance, one key feature of type 2 diabetes. She is also interested in contributing to the development of new analytical approaches, spearheaded by Dr Lauffenburger’s team, that leverage ongoing lipid-related findings into a new understanding of pathology in type 2 diabetes.

Dr Nikolajczyk said: “Aggressive blood glucose control to lower the risk of diabetic complications has been the goal for most people with type 2 Diabetes for decades. Our data provide an explanation for why people with tight glucose control can nonetheless have disease progression.”

For more information about the study, click here.

Picture caption: Dr Barbara Nikolajczyk with researchers.

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