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Higher blood fats in people with type 2 diabetes and obesity double trouble

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A recent study has discovered that elevated blood fat levels in patients with type 2 diabetes and obesity are more dangerous than previously thought.

Increased fat levels in the blood cause stress in muscle cells in people with metabolic diseases, which is a reaction to changes outside the cell that affect its structure and function.

Researchers at the University of Leeds revealed that stressed-out cells emit a signal that can be passed on to other cells.

Because they are part of a mechanism designed to alleviate stress in the cell, the signals, known as ceramides, may have a protective advantage in the short term. However, in metabolic diseases, which are chronic illnesses, the signals can damage cells, exacerbate symptoms, and worsen the sickness.

Higher blood fat levels have long been known to harm tissues and organs, contributing to cardiovascular and metabolic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes. Obesity, which has nearly tripled in global rates since 1975, can induce the illness. In 2016, there were more than 650 million obese adults aged 18 and up, according to the World Health Organization.

Professor Lee Roberts, who oversaw the research, said:

“Although this research is at an early stage, our discovery may form the basis of new therapies or therapeutic approaches to prevent the development of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases such as diabetes in people with elevated blood fats in obesity.” 

In the lab, the team replicated the blood fat levels observed in humans with metabolic disease by exposing skeletal muscle cells to a fatty acid called palmitate. The cells began to transmit the ceramide signal.  

When these cells were mixed with others which had not been previously exposed to fats, the researchers found that they communicated with each other, transporting the signal in packages called extracellular vesicles.  

The experiment was reproduced in human volunteers with metabolic diseases and gave comparable results. The findings provide a completely new angle on how cells respond to stress, with important consequences for our understanding of certain metabolic diseases including obesity. 

Professor Roberts said: “This research gives us a novel perspective on how stress develops in the cells of individuals with obesity, and provides new pathways to consider when looking to develop new treatments for metabolic diseases.  

“With obesity an ever-increasing epidemic, the burden of associated chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes necessitates new treatments. We hope the results of our research here open a new avenue for research to help address this growing concern.” 

Source: 10.1038/s41467-022-29363-9

Image Credit: Getty

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