A gene that is responsible for the development of harmful adipose tissue in humans, thereby raising the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, has been identified by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, a new study published in the journal Cell Metabolism reveals.
Adipose tissue can expand in two ways: by increasing the size and/or the number of the fat cells. It is well established that subjects with few but large fat cells, so-called hypertrophy, display an increased risk of developing type 2-diabetes. In the current study, researchers identified a gene, EBF1, which according to these new findings drive the development of the unhealthy adipose tissue. This gene encodes a protein that controls a set of other genes, a so-called transcription factor, and regulates the formation of new fat cells as well as their metabolic function.
The investigators compared adipose tissue from subjects with small or large fat cells and found that EBF1 was closely linked to hypertrophy. Individuals with large fat cells had markedly lower EBF1 expression in their adipose tissue, displayed altered lipid mobilisation and were insulin resistant. Insulin resistance - a condition characterised by reduced cellular response to the hormone insulin that is released when the blood glucose levels rise after a meal - is an important causal factor underlying the increased risk of diabetes in individuals with hypertrophic adipose tissue. Insulin resistance leads to increased circulating levels of glucose and lipids in the blood.