A new study says that natural hormone made by fat cells could be a key weapon in the fight against diabetes and obesity
Interestingly the path to discovery was through an uncommon disease called neonatal progeroid syndrome (NPS), which leaves people with unhealthily low levels of fat.
“My dream would be for patients on insulin to be able to reduce or even stop taking it…Maybe you could give them antibodies that block asprosin once a week to get blood glucose down.”
By analyzing the DNA of two patients who suffer from NPS, Atul Chopra and his team at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, found that these people feel particularly lethargic because they’re lacking a previously unknown hormone, which the Baylor team has dubbed asprosin.
“We looked into this super-rare condition, and the result was a discovery that could benefit millions with a much more common disorder – diabetes,” says Chopra in New Scientist.
Because the two people with NPS lack an ability to boost glucose in their blood between meals. “I do get hungry very often,” says Abigail Solomon, one of the people who helped solve the puzzle. “I eat a lot, and frequently, mostly sugary stuff first, then protein.”
Diabetes researchers are intrigued by the finding. “The fact that asprosin hits the liver and causes overproduction of glucose, a key factor in type 2 diabetes, makes it even more interesting,” says Alan Cherrington of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.
New Scientist reports:
“My dream would be for patients on insulin to be able to reduce or even stop taking it,” says Chopra. “Maybe you could give them antibodies that block asprosin once a week to get blood glucose down, and this would mean patients having to take less insulin or get off it completely.”
Chopra’s team has already taken out a patent on the hormone, and is testing an asprosin-blocking antibody. “We’re treating diabetic mice, and it seems to be working well,” he says. They hope to begin a safety trial in humans within a couple of years.
Asprosin may also play a role in obesity and weight gain. While people with NPS, like Solomon, are extremely thin, Chopra’s team also found that obese people have twice as much asprosin in their blood than people who are not obese. “Obesity will be the focus of our next study,” he says. “It’s likely that as fat levels go up, asprosin goes up too,” he says.