Washington: Researchers have discovered that the resistance to insulin seen in type 2 diabetics is caused partly by the lack of a protein that has not previously been associated with the condition.
This breakthrough could potentially help to prevent diabetes.
"We discovered that Neu1, a protein nicknamed after "neuraminidase 1", turns the absorption of sugar "on" or "off" in body cells, by regulating the amount of sialic acid on the surface of cells", Dr. Alexey Pshezhetsky of the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center, affiliated with the University of Montreal, said.
"We are now trying to find a way to restore Neu1 levels and function in diabetes. If we can remove sialic acid residues from the cell surface, this will force the insulin receptor do its job of absorbing blood sugar properly. This could give doctors an opportunity to reduce the use of insulin therapy, and might help to reduce the diabetes epidemic, Dr. Pshezhetsky said.
Although type 2 diabetes is initially treated with diet, exercise and tobacco avoidance, doctors try to restore normal levels of insulin by prescribing it when this fails.
The study is published in the journal Diabetes.