In race to understand diabetes, this protein may be the APPL of our eyes


We all know that lack of communication is bad for any relationship, but when that relationship is going on in our cells and the result of the poor communication is obesity and diabetes, we sit up and take notice.

A protein named APPL1 enhances communication between insulin and adiponectin hormones in cells, reports Lily Dong, Ph.D., of the Health Science Center and co-researchers in a Nature Cell Biology article published online April 16. Adiponectin is a hormone secreted in adipose tissue, one of the components in body fat. Little is known about how adiponectin works in the human body, but it seems to protect against diabetes.

Dr. Dong, the lead author, says studies in humans have revealed that decreased levels of adiponectin are a good predictor for the development of type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease. “Adiponectin is known to help insulin function and prevent insulin resistance and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) in mice,” she said. “This finding opens a new avenue to explore adiponectin function for the future development of this hormone as an anti-diabetic, anti-atherogenic and anti-inflammatory agent.”

Dr. Dong is an assistant professor in the department of cellular and structural biology, and member of the Health Science Center’s Sam and Ann Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies. She and her colleagues are investigating the link between the adiponectin receptor on the cell surface and the network inside the cell that controls glucose and lipid metabolism.

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