The unexpected benefits of fat in type 2 diabetes – BIOENGINEER.ORG

With nearly 10% of the world’s population affected, type 2 diabetes is a major public health problem. An overly sedentary lifestyle and an overly caloric diet encourage the development of this metabolic disease by altering the functioning of pancreatic cells and making blood sugar regulation less effective. However, fat, often referred to as the ideal culprit, could be re-established. In fact, fat does not necessarily aggravate the disease and may even play a protective role: by studying insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells, scientists from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, have shown that the cells These people suffer from reduced sugar intake when they have previously been exposed to fat. By investigating the cellular mechanisms at work, the researchers discovered how a cycle of storage and movement of fat allows cells to adapt to excess sugar. These results, published in the journal Diabetology, highlights an unexpected biological mechanism that could be used as a lever to delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

With nearly 10% of the world’s population affected, type 2 diabetes is a major public health problem. An overly sedentary lifestyle and an overly caloric diet encourage the development of this metabolic disease by altering the functioning of pancreatic cells and making blood sugar regulation less effective. However, fat, often cited as the ideal culprit, could be rehabilitated. In fact, fat does not necessarily aggravate the disease and may even play a protective role: by studying insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells, scientists from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, have shown that the cells These people suffer from reduced sugar intake when they have previously been exposed to fat. By investigating the cellular mechanisms at work, the researchers discovered how a cycle of fat storage and movement allows cells to adapt to excess sugar. These results, published in the journal Diabetology, highlights an unexpected biological mechanism that could be used as a lever to delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes results from the malfunction of pancreatic beta cells, which are responsible for insulin secretion. This impairs the regulation of blood sugar levels and can lead to serious heart, eye and kidney complications. In the 1970s, fat was identified and the concept of lipotoxicity emerged: exposure of beta cells to fat would cause their decline. More recently, too much sugar has also been blamed for damaging beta cells and promoting the development of type 2. diabetes. What are the cellular mechanisms involved? “To answer this key question, we studied how human and murine beta cells adapt to excess sugar and / or fat”, explains Pierre Maechler, Professor in the Department of Cell Physiology and Metabolism and at the UNIGE Faculty Diabetes Center from Medicine led this work.

When fat gives a helping hand to beta cells

To distinguish between the effect of fat and the effect of sugar, the scientists exposed beta cells to excess sugar, fat, and then to a combination of the two. Sugar toxicity was first confirmed: beta cells exposed to high sugar levels secreted significantly less insulin than usual. “When cells are exposed to too much sugar and excess fat, they store the fat in droplets in anticipation of less prosperous times,” explains Lucie Oberhauser, a researcher in the Department of Cell Physiology and Metabolism in the UNIGE Faculty of Medicine , and the first author of this work. “Surprisingly, we have shown that this fat stock, instead of exacerbating it, allows insulin secretion to be restored to near normal levels. Adapting beta cells to certain fats would therefore contribute to maintaining normal blood sugar levels. ”

The essential consumption of fat

By further analyzing the cellular changes involved, the research team realized that fat droplets were not static reservoirs, but were a dynamic cycle site of storage and movement. And thanks to these released fat molecules, beta cells adjust to the excess sugar and maintain almost normal insulin secretion. “This fat release is not really a problem as long as the body uses it as a source of energy”, adds Pierre Maechler. “In order to avoid developing diabetes, it is important to give this beneficial cycle the opportunity to be active, for example through regular physical activity.”
Scientists are now trying to determine the mechanism by which this released fat uses to stimulate insulin secretion, in the hope of finding a way to delay the onset of diabetes.


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