BIOMEDICINE: Piece de Resistance?

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Science  02 Feb 2001:
Vol. 291, Issue 5505, pp. 791d
DOI: 10.1126/science.291.5505.791d

Type II diabetes is characterized by resistance to insulin, a hormone that stimulates glucose uptake into muscle and fat. About 80% of humans with type II diabetes are obese, but the link between the two conditions has been unclear.

An important clue comes from work by Steppan et al., who have identified a new protein secreted by adipocytes (fat cells) that antagonizes insulin action. This protein, called resistin, is present at elevated levels in the blood of obese mice and is down-regulated by fasting and by certain anti-diabetic drugs. Blocking resistin activity with antibodies stimulated glucose uptake by cultured adipocytes, and lowered blood glucose levels and improved insulin sensitivity in obese mice. Thus, resistin may prove to be a valuable target for the development of new anti-diabetic therapies. Interestingly, the same research group found other tissue-specific secreted proteins with sequence resemblance to resistin (called RELMs, for resistin-like molecules) in colon, white adipose tissue, and mammary tissue. Whether the functional characterization of these additional family members will match the excitement elicited by the resistin study remains to be seen. — PAK

Acknowledgments

Nature 409, 307 (2001); Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 98, 502 (2001).

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