A study in the April 13, 2006 issue of Nature (Vol. 440, No. 7086, pp. 944-948) identifies reactive oxygen species as key players in the development of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a hallmark of type 2 diabetes, but can also occur in clinical settings such as pregnancy and obesity.
As their name suggests, reactive oxygen species are highly reactive forms of oxygen that are by-products of cellular respiration and metabolic activity. They have 'Jekyll and Hyde' characteristics, acting as useful signalling molecules but also damaging cells by causing oxidative stress.
Eric Lander and colleagues set out to test the link between reactive oxygen species and insulin resistance, as it is known that many patients with insulin resistance also suffer from oxidative stress. The authors exposed fat-storage cells to two chemicals that induce insulin resistance, and found that levels of reactive oxygen species increased in both of these models. They then treated the cells with agents to suppress the production of reactive oxygen species, which in turn reduced insulin resistance. They repeated this experiment in vivo in obese mice, finding the same results.
The authors highlight the need for further studies to strengthen the relationship between reactive oxygen species and insulin resistance, but suggest that antioxidant therapy could prove a promising strategy for treating conditions such as type 2 diabetes.
Eric Lander (Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, MA, USA)
(C) Nature press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza
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