Adult-Onset Diabetes: An 'Imbalancing' Act

October 15, 1997

Although diabetes is the Western world's most common metabolic disease, adult-onset diabetes, which affects 90% of diabetes sufferers, is still poorly understood. Unlike the rarer juvenile condition in which the body destroys its own insulin-producing cells, in adult-onset, or Type II diabetes, insulin production is mysteriously impaired.

A new study helps explain why adult-onset diabetics don't produce enough insulin. As reported in the September issue of Diabetes, Weizmann Institute Prof. Yoram Groner, Dr. Hilla Knobler of Kaplan Hospital and Weizmann doctoral students Yael Weiss and Mira Peled studied PFK, a key enzyme in glucose metabolism. When glucose levels rise, PFK is believed to serve as a messenger, directing the pancreas to produce insulin. However, as Knobler and Groner have discovered, imbalance in the composition of PFK may cause this directive to be garbled, interfering with insulin secretion and causing a condition similar to Type-II diabetes.

PFK consists of three different sub-units. The researchers engineered mice with abnormally high levels of the sub-unit known as PFK-L, and found that such mice develop symptoms of Type II diabetes. The results, which need to be confirmed in human studies, suggest that PFK imbalance may be responsible for impaired insulin production in adult-onset diabetics.

If the findings are confirmed, this may explain why Down syndrome patients have an increased incidence of diabetes. The gene for PFK-L is found on human chromosome 21 -- the same chromosome that appears in three, rather than two copies in patients with Down syndrome. The presence of an additional gene for PFK-L may cause over-production of this enzyme sub-unit, causing an imbalance which is responsible for the disease.

This study comes four years after a team of French and American scientists uncovered a genetic mutation which contributes to the appearance of Type II diabetes in younger patients. However, this mutation explains the disease in less than 10 percent of cases. This new study indicates the possibility of another genetic defect which can cause Type II diabetes.

As scientists study the genetic underpinnings of adult-onset diabetes, it may one day be possible to parley this information into screening, which would detect a pre-disposition for the condition in patients who are not yet sick. Moreover, as new genetic technologies are developed, it may become possible to cure genetic defects which lead to diabetes, rather than simply treating its symptoms.

Additional Information Prof. Groner holds the Barnet Berris Chair of Cancer Research. The research was supported by grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung, Germany, Mr. Bernard Sabrier, Switzerland, the Weizmann Institute's Leo and Julie Forchheimer Center for Molecular Genetics, and the Shapell Family Biomedical Research Foundation, Los Angeles, California.

American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science

Related Diabetes Articles from Brightsurf:

New diabetes medication reduced heart event risk in those with diabetes and kidney disease
Sotagliflozin - a type of medication known as an SGLT2 inhibitor primarily prescribed for Type 2 diabetes - reduces the risk of adverse cardiovascular events for patients with diabetes and kidney disease.

Diabetes drug boosts survival in patients with type 2 diabetes and COVID-19 pneumonia
Sitagliptin, a drug to lower blood sugar in type 2 diabetes, also improves survival in diabetic patients hospitalized with COVID-19, suggests a multicenter observational study in Italy.

Making sense of diabetes
Throughout her 38-year nursing career, Laurel Despins has progressed from a bedside nurse to a clinical nurse specialist and has worked in medical, surgical and cardiac intensive care units.

Helping teens with type 1 diabetes improve diabetes control with MyDiaText
Adolescence is a difficult period of development, made more complex for those with Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM).

Diabetes-in-a-dish model uncovers new insights into the cause of type 2 diabetes
Researchers have developed a novel 'disease-in-a-dish' model to study the basic molecular factors that lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, uncovering the potential existence of major signaling defects both inside and outside of the classical insulin signaling cascade, and providing new perspectives on the mechanisms behind insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes and possibly opportunities for the development of novel therapeutics for the disease.

Tele-diabetes to manage new-onset diabetes during COVID-19 pandemic
Two new case studies highlight the use of tele-diabetes to manage new-onset type 1 diabetes in an adult and an infant during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Genetic profile may predict type 2 diabetes risk among women with gestational diabetes
Women who go on to develop type 2 diabetes after having gestational, or pregnancy-related, diabetes are more likely to have particular genetic profiles, suggests an analysis by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other institutions.

Maternal gestational diabetes linked to diabetes in children
Children and youth of mothers who had gestational diabetes during pregnancy are at increased risk of diabetes themselves, according to new research published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Two diabetes medications don't slow progression of type 2 diabetes in youth
In youth with impaired glucose tolerance or recent-onset type 2 diabetes, neither initial treatment with long-acting insulin followed by the drug metformin, nor metformin alone preserved the body's ability to make insulin, according to results published online June 25 in Diabetes Care.

People with diabetes visit the dentist less frequently despite link between diabetes, oral health
Adults with diabetes are less likely to visit the dentist than people with prediabetes or without diabetes, finds a new study led by researchers at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and East Carolina University's Brody School of Medicine.

Read More: Diabetes News and Diabetes Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to