Swedish researchers detect early marker protein for diabetes

by Mark Benson on November 10, 2012

Swedish researchers detect early marker protein for diabetes

Researchers in Sweden have released a report this week which confirms the relationship between diabetes and the protein SFRP4. While this is a major step forward in the fight against diabetes what exactly is protein SFRP4 and what is the link with diabetes?

We will now take a look at the study in Sweden and exactly what this means for the diabetes industry and sufferers of the future. There are some who believe that the findings of this Swedish research programme may well revolutionise the fight against this condition and future treatment. Time will tell whether this has been a major breakthrough but the early signs are that yet another way to predict those at potential risk of developing diabetes has emerged.

The research programme

Researchers in Sweden monitored insulin producing beta cells from diabetics and non-diabetics measuring the concentration of the SFRP4 protein in both groups of cells. There has been speculation for many years now that the protein SFRP4 is in some way, shape or form connected to diabetes although so far the direct link required has avoided scientist.

By measuring the levels of the SFRP4 protein on a three-year cycle researchers were able to define those at potential risk of developing diabetes. It very quickly became evident that higher than average levels of the protein in question were directly linked to the onset of diabetes. This is not the Holy Grail of the diabetes industry but there is no doubt that it does give researchers and doctors more food for thought. What next?

Early diagnosis

It is believed that the research carried out in Sweden could eventually allow doctors to diagnose those at potential risk of diabetes anything up to 10 years in advance of the condition materialising. While some would argue that if an individual is already at the pre-diabetes stage then in effect they are on the road to contracting the condition on a full-blown basis, this is not necessarily true.

It is believed that by managing your health and your lifestyle, those at risk of developing diabetes, in this instance type II diabetes, may well be able to instigate changes in their eating habits and their exercise habits which could delay or block the onset of the condition. This is a major breakthrough because the fact that those at potential risk of diabetes could know anywhere up to 10 years in advance of the condition “materialising” gives a very important buffer and time to make changes.

What is the SFRP4 protein?

It is been known for many years now that the SFRP4 protein plays a major role in the inflammatory process in the body and it is believed it does have an impact upon insulin producing beta cells. A high level of the protein can have a detrimental impact upon these very important beta cells around the body and reduce an individual’s ability to produce sufficient insulin to regulate their blood sugar levels and avoid the potentially fatal complications connected with diabetes.

After the publication of these Swedish results it does sound as though it could be possible for doctors to reverse or block the impact of this high level of protein upon the beta cells. This would then allow the body to create sufficient insulin to regulate blood sugar levels and avoid the onset of diabetes. At this moment in time this is all theoretical but the reality is that if scientists are able to reduce the impact which these high-protein levels have on these very important insulin producing beta cells then in effect one more avenue down which diabetes can travel could be blocked off for ever.

Statistics from the study

While more research and data will be required before any definitive conclusion can be formed the statistical data from the study suggest that 37% of those with higher than average SFRP4 protein levels went on to develop diabetes as opposed to just 9% of those who had below average levels of this protein. On the surface it may be fairly simple to “pick holes” in these particular statistics but the reality is that it looks as though those with higher levels of this particular protein are indeed more susceptible to contracting the condition.

Over the last few weeks there has been much pessimism with regards to data from diabetes and other medical tests and whether indeed some companies are selective with their publications. Only time will tell with regards to this Swedish study, which seems to have discovered a direct link between the SFRP4 protein and early-stage diabetes, and we will likely see an expanded study in this particular area in the months and years ahead.

One step forward

If we step back and take a look at the data from this particular study it is evident that those with higher than average levels of the SFRP4 protein are more susceptible to developing diabetes. The direct link between this specific protein and damage to the insulin producing beta cells is also very important because it does give scientists and doctors a target for the future. If they are able to reduce the damage to these insulin producing beta cells then this would cut off one more avenue with regards to the development of diabetes in the future.

Over the last few weeks, and indeed the last couple of years, we have seen a number of new studies released with regards to diabetes and the ongoing risks. It becomes more evident as each research note is published that this is a very complicated and very difficult condition to control. There appear to be a number of ways in which you can develop this condition, with specific focus on type II diabetes, although if scientists are able to block off individual “risk paths” then this will reduce the number of diabetics in the future.

Conclusion

While many researchers and doctors have suspected a very strong link between the SFRP4 protein and the onset of diabetes this Swedish research programme seems to have discovered a definitive link. It will be interesting to see how this particular discovery is exploited in the months and years ahead because in theory it has the potential to block off one avenue by which diabetes can infiltrate the body’s immune system. It will take some time to develop medication and screening programs off the back of this program but there is no doubt that significant progress has been made – again.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com 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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