Scientists find critical link for how obesity can cause type 2 diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on November 30, 2017

Scientists have identified a major mechanism by which obesity causes type 2 diabetes and they hope that it could lead to the creation of new tools for risk screening.

The researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern in the United States found that in cases of obesity, insulin released into the blood by the pancreas is unable to pass through the cells that form the inner lining of blood vessels.

(Alila Medical Media/

‘As a result, insulin is not delivered to the muscles, where it usually stimulates most of the body’s glucose to be metabolized. Blood glucose levels rise, leading to diabetes and its related cardiovascular, kidney and vision problems,’ said Dr. Philip Shaul, director of the Centre for Pulmonary and Vascular Biology in the Department of Paediatrics at UT Southwestern.

According to the study’s co-author, Dr. Chieko Mineo, associate professor of paediatrics, it was unexpected that a major problem in obesity is the delivery of circulating insulin to your muscle. ‘It was even more surprising that this problem involves immunoglobulins, which are the proteins that make up circulating antibodies,’ he added.

The researchers found that obese mice have an unexpected chemical change in their immunoglobulins. ‘The abnormal immunoglobulins then act on cells lining blood vessels to inhibit an enzyme needed to transfer insulin from the bloodstream into the muscle,’ Shaul explained.

‘Type 2 diabetes patients have the same chemical change, and if we give a mouse immunoglobulins from a type 2 diabetic individual, the mouse becomes diabetic,’ he pointed out.

He believes that the findings from the study may lead to new tools for diabetes risk screening and new avenues for diabetes prevention or treatment. The researchers identified an agent that they could administer to mice that prevents the chemical change in immunoglobulins that occurs with obesity and preserves healthy glucose status. The researchers plan to test this strategy in humans in the near future.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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