Fat Hormone Controls Gene Linked to Diabetes

TUESDAY, Jan. 5 (HealthDay News) -- A fat hormone known as leptin controls a gene in the liver that's linked to the dampening of diabetes in animals, researchers have found.

The finding suggests that the hormone could potentially have the same effect in people.

Earlier research had found that leptin treatment helps regulate blood sugar and insulin levels in mice and humans that don't have enough leptin in their bodies. The new study, published in the January issue of Cell Metabolism, shows that leptin works at low levels by affecting the gene, known as IGFBP2.

"It was surprising to me how potent leptin was in treating diabetes," lead investigator Jeffrey Friedman, of Rockefeller University, said in a news release from the journal. "It had a highly significant impact at plasma levels that were undetectable."

The research was conducted on mice and designed to study the effects of leptin on diabetes without the corresponding weight loss that the hormone can cause. The study authors found that treated animals responded better to insulin -- three times better, in fact.

New research will focus on mice that don't have the IGFBP2 gene, to see if it's responsible for leptin's ability to fight diabetes.

-- Randy Dotinga

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SOURCE: Cell Press, news release, Jan. 5, 2010