Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Possible Treatment Target for Type 2 Diabetes Identified

Published: Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Last Updated: Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Researchers at the NIH have clarified in rodent and test tube experiments the role that inflammation plays in type 2 diabetes, revealing a possible molecular target for treating the disease.

A report of the finding appears online in Nature Medicine.

"This study is a significant milestone in an ongoing exploration of the endocannabinoid system's role in the metabolic complications of obesity," says Kenneth R. Warren, Ph.D., acting director of NIH's National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), which led the study.

Endocannabinoids are natural messengers in the body that help regulate many biological functions. They are chemically similar to the active compound in marijuana. Recent studies have tied endocannabinoids to the metabolic problems that lead to diabetes.  Researchers also have recognized that inflammation appears to play an important role in the pathology of diabetes.  

"The identities of the molecular and cellular actors in the inflammatory processes that underlie type 2 diabetes have remained elusive," explains senior author and NIAAA scientific director George Kunos, M.D., Ph.D.  "Our study connects endocannabinoids to an inflammatory cascade leading to the loss of beta cells in the pancreas, which is a hallmark of type 2 diabetes." 

Working with a strain of genetically obese rats that serve as a model for human type 2 diabetes, Dr. Kunos and his colleagues used a combination of pharmacological and genetic tools to show that endocannabinoids trigger receptors on macrophages in the pancreas.  Macrophages are immune system cells, present in all tissues that rid the body of cellular debris and pathogens.

"Like various other peripheral tissues, such as the liver, skeletal muscles, pancreas, and fatty tissue, macrophages have receptors for endocannabinoids," explains Dr. Kunos.

The researchers demonstrated that endocannabinoid activation of macrophages in the pancreas leads to activation of a protein complex within macrophages called the Nlrp3 inflammasome.  The inflammasome, in turn, releases molecules that cause the death of pancreatic beta cells and the progression of type 2 diabetes in the rats.

"When we treated the rats with compounds that deplete macrophages or block all peripheral cannabinoid receptors, inflammasome activation and type 2 diabetes progression was slowed," noted Dr. Kunos.

In test tube experiments, the researchers showed that macrophages from humans and mice produced the same inflammasome response when they were incubated with endocannabinoids.  However, mouse macrophages that were genetically altered to lack cannabinoid receptors or inflammasomes generated no such response.

Most notably, the researchers showed that by selectively blocking the expression of cannabinoid receptors on macrophages, they could protect and restore beta cell function in the genetically obese rats, which delayed the development and reduced the severity of their diabetes. 

The authors conclude that the findings point to a key role in type 2 diabetes for endocannabinoid-induced inflammasome activation in macrophages, and identify cannabinoid receptors on macrophages as a new therapeutic target.

"To understand type 2 diabetes, a public health threat that affects young and old alike, we need to consider all the factors at play," said Monica Skarulis, M.D., staff clinician at National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and co-author. "We hope that what we've learned from this research will help us develop new strategies to prevent and treat the condition."

In addition to Dr. Kunos' team of NIAAA scientists and Dr. Skarulis, co-authors on the study included researchers from the University of Colorado Medical Campus, Aurora, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Molecule Proves Key to Brain Repair After Stroke
Scientists found that a molecule known as growth and differentiation factor 10 (GDF10) plays a key role in repair mechanisms following stroke.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Nuclear Transport Problems Linked to ALS and FTD
NIH-supported studies point to potential new target for treating neurodegenerative diseases.
Monday, October 19, 2015
NIH Funding Targets Gaps in Biomedical Research
New awards support emerging issues in cutting-edge biomedical research fields.
Tuesday, October 06, 2015
NIH Framework Points The Way Forward For Developing The President’s Precision Medicine Initiative
The NIH Advisory Committee to the Director has presented to NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., a detailed design framework for building a national research participant group, called a cohort, of 1 million or more Americans to expand our knowledge and practice of precision medicine.
Monday, September 21, 2015
Beth Israel Cardiology Team Awarded $3 Million by NIH
Work will help predict outcomes in patients with heart disease.
Friday, September 18, 2015
Novel Mechanism to Explain Autoimmune Uveitis Proposed
A new study on mice suggests that bacteria in the gut may provide a kind of training ground for immune cells to attack the eye.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Nuclear Process in the Brain That May Affect Disease Uncovered
Scientists have shown that the passage of molecules through the nucleus of a star-shaped brain cell, called an astrocyte, may play a critical role in health and disease.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Scientists Uncover Nuclear Process in the Brain that May Affect Disease
NIH-funded study highlights the possible role of glial brain cells in neurological disorders.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
PINK1 Protein Crucial for Removing Broken-Down Energy Reactors
NIH study suggests potential new pathway to target for treating ALS and other diseases.
Thursday, August 13, 2015
Tell-tale Biomarker Detects Early Breast Cancer in NIH-funded Study
The study published online in the issue of Nature Communications.
Thursday, August 13, 2015
Researchers Identify Protein in Mice that Helps Prepare for Healthy Egg-sperm Union
Protein RGS2 plays a critical role in preserving the fertilizability of the ovulated egg.
Wednesday, August 05, 2015
Protein Related to Long Term Traumatic Brain Injury Complications Discovered
NIH-study shows protein found at higher levels in military members who have suffered multiple TBIs.
Tuesday, August 04, 2015
Crystal Clear Images Uncover Secrets of Hormone Receptors
NIH researchers gain better understanding of how neuropeptide hormones trigger chemical reactions in cells.
Monday, August 03, 2015
Vital Protein in Healthy Fertilization Process Identified
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have discovered a protein that plays a vital role in healthy egg-sperm union in mice.
Monday, July 27, 2015
NIH Joins Public-Private Partnership to Fund Research on Autism Biomarkers
Biomarkers Consortium project to improve tools for measuring and treating social impairment in children with autism.
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Scientific News
Measuring microRNAs in Blood to Speed Cancer Detection
A simple, ultrasensitive microRNA sensor holds promise for the design of new diagnostic strategies and, potentially, for the prognosis and treatment of pancreatic and other cancers.
Novel Proteins Linked to Huntington's Disease
University of Florida Health researchers have made a new discovery about Huntington's disease, showing that the gene that causes the fatal disorder makes an unexpected "cocktail" of mutant proteins that accumulate in the brain.
Enzyme Critical to Maintaining Telomere Length Discovered
New method expected to speed understanding of short telomere diseases and cancer.
New Method Identifies Up to Twice as Many Proteins and Peptides
An international team of researchers developed a method that identifies up to twice as many proteins and peptides in mass spectrometry data than conventional approaches.
Metabolic Profiles Distinguish Early Stage Ovarian Cancer with Unprecedented Accuracy
Studying blood serum compounds of different molecular weights has led scientists to a set of biomarkers that may enable development of a highly accurate screening test for early-stage ovarian cancer.
New Way to Force Stem Cells to Become Bone Cells
Potential therapies based on this discovery could help people heal bone injuries or set hardware, such as replacement knees and hips.
Long-Sought Protein Sensor for the ‘Sixth Sense’ Discovered
In a study led by scientists from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI)the sensor protein for propioception has been identified.
How Viruses Commandeer Human Proteins
Researchers have produced the first image of an important human protein as it binds with ribonucleic acid (RNA), a discovery that could offer clues to how some viruses, including HIV, control expression of their genetic material.
Tracking How Herpes Simplex Virus Moves Through Cells
In a recent study, Derek Walsh, PhD, associate professor of Microbiology-Immunology, and his team showed how the herpes simplex virus (HSV) exploits microtubule plus-end tracking proteins to initiate transport and infection in human cells.
Essential Component of Antiviral Defense Identified
Infectious disease researchers at the University of Georgia have identified a signaling protein critical for host defense against influenza infection.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos