The National Institutes of Health has awarded a $1.15 million grant to a researcher at Eastern Virginia Medical School to investigate a protein that may prevent obese people from developing type 2 diabetes.
The researcher, Yumi Imai, MD, will focus on a regulatory protein called adipose differentiation-related protein. ADFP facilitates efficient use of lipids, fatty molecules that the body uses to store energy.
Fat contains high levels of lipids. In obese people, those lipids eventually move into the bloodstream, where they can cause organ and muscle inflammation. In the islet cells that produce insulin, inflammation can eventually damage production and lessen the hormone’s effectiveness, often leading to type 2.
Dr. Imai theorizes that ADFP functions as a kind of flow control, leading lipids through islet cells so that the cells can absorb energy from them, but preventing the volume of lipids from overwhelming the cells and damaging them. She thinks that obese people may have too little ADFP.
However, some obese people do not develop type 2 despite having all of the preconditions for it. In those cases, Dr. Imai will look to see if they have naturally high levels of ADFP.
If ADFP functions the way Dr. Imai suspects, confirmation could open the door for a new type 2 therapy that can control lipid damage to insulin-producing cells. She and her team at EVMS’s Strelitz Diabetes Center will use mice and tissue cultures, in conjunction with a high-fat diet, to see how different levels of ADFP affect the development of type 2.