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Research helps clarify how obesity leads to type 2 diabetes, cancer
Date:6/5/2014

New findings about the biological links between obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes may also shed light on the connection between obesity and cancer, says a scientist at The University of Texas at Dallas.

In a study published online June 5 in the journal Cell, UT Dallas' Dr. Jung-whan (Jay) Kim and colleagues at the University of California, San Diego found that a protein called HIF-1 alpha plays a key role in the development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes in obese mice.

The researchers genetically engineered mice to lack the HIF-1 alpha protein within the animals' fat cells, or adipocytes. The animals still made HIF-1 alpha in other types of cells and tissues in their bodies. Although the mice became obese when fed a high-fat diet, they did not develop insulin resistance and diabetes to near the extent that genetically normal, obese mice did.

"There is clearly a greater chance among the obese human population to develop insulin resistance and diabetes. We still don't know the exact mechanism, but now we know that HIF-1 alpha is very active in the pathogenesis of these diseases from obesity," said Kim, a co-lead author of the study who conducted the research while a postdoctoral researcher at UC San Diego and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. He joined the UT Dallas faculty as an assistant professor of molecular and cell biology in 2013.

Kim said the findings about HIF-1, which stands for hypoxia inducible factor-1, are significant not only for their possible application to fighting insulin resistance and diabetes, but also cancer. Here's why:

Cells in the body normally consume oxygen to produce energy. But if oxygen levels decrease, for example during strenuous exercise or at high altitudes, cells enter a condition called hypoxia, or low oxygen. With oxygen in short supply, cells switch their metabolism. Instead of energy, the cells produce reactive oxygen species, which are
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Contact: Amanda Siegfried
amanda.siegfried@utdallas.edu
972-883-4335
University of Texas at Dallas
Source:Eurekalert

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