Missing protein explains obesity, diabetes link

PHOTO: Missing protein explains obesity, diabetes link

SINGAPORE - Scientists here have uncovered why those who are grossly overweight are more likely to have diabetes, and it is because of a single missing protein.

Researchers at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology under the Agency for Science, Techno- logy and Research found that obese individuals lack a protein essential for regulating blood glucose levels, which translates into a higher diabetes risk.

While the link between the two conditions has long been known, the nuts and bolts of how this happens has been unclear.

The protein is believed to be one of the first molecular links found between obesity and diabetes. And it may open new doors to treatment or prevention of diabetes, the researchers said.

The protein in question goes by the name Nuclear Ubiquitous casein and Cyclin-dependent Kinase Substrate (Nucks). When it is absent, people develop insulin resistance - and are unable to regulate their blood glucose levels properly. So their bodies constantly experience high levels of blood glucose, making them more susceptible to diabetes.

This finding could lead to the development of new drugs to restore the level of Nucks in the body. Scientists also want to look at what sort of diet changes and exercise would be more effective in restoring Nucks in the body.

In Singapore, one in nine people is obese. And diabetes affects more than 11 per cent of the population here.

"The incidence of metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity has been rising over the years, and these findings will prove valuable in further developing therapeutic approaches for them," said the institute's executive director Professor Hong Wanjin.


This article was first published on July 01, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.