UCLA researchers identify markers that may predict diabetes in still-healthy people

Aug 14, 2007

In the first large scale, multiethnic study of its kind, researchers at UCLA have confirmed the role played by three particular molecules known as cytokines as a cause of Type 2 diabetes, and further, have identified these molecules as early biological markers that may be used to more accurately predict future incidences of diabetes among apparently healthy individuals.

Reporting in the August 15 issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, Simin Liu, professor of epidemiology and medicine with a joint appointment in the School of Public Health and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and colleagues have identified three inflammatory cytokines (cytokines are messenger molecules) tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-á); interleukin-6 (IL-6); and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) that may be one of the causes of type 2 diabetes which afflicts roughly seven percent of the U.S. population.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes; about 90 to 95 percent of people who have diabetes have type 2. People with this condition produce insulin, but either their bodies don’t make enough of it, or can’t effectively use it.

Low-grade chronic inflammation of the body, which is reflected by elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines in the blood stream, may promote insulin resistance in the liver, muscles, and the vascular endothelium cells, the layer of thin, flat cells that lines the interior surface of blood vessels. Such inflammation can last for years before leading to type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or hypertension.

A blood test that looks for high levels of inflammatory cytokines could serve as an accurate predictor of diabetes in still-healthy people, years ahead of the traditional risk factors of obesity or insulin resistance. The finding also has implication for cancer research as well, said Liu, since people with diabetes are at greater risk of developing breast and colon cancers.

“This is a final confirmation of earlier studies about the underlying biology behind type 2 diabetes,” said Liu, who is also a member of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. But those studies, he said, were either very small or animal studies. By comparison, he said, their study was more extensive in scale and involved human study volunteers. “Our study identified 1,600 new cases of diabetes and measured the blood markers before they developed the disease.”

The researchers took advantage of the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study (WHIOS), an ongoing, long term study that was designed to examine the association between behavior, socioeconomic status, diet, and other factors and the effect on a woman’s health. Liu and colleagues took baseline level measurements of inflammatory cytokines in apparently healthy women without any signs of diabetes who were between the ages of 50 and 79 years-old, then tracked their health for the next six years. The WHIOS study involved some 82,000 postmenopausal women who cut across multiple ethnicities, including whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asian/Pacific Islanders. At the time of follow-up, Liu and colleagues compared 1,584 women, now diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and matched them by age, ethnicity and other factors to 2,198 other women in the study who remained free of the disease.

While all three cytokines were found to be significantly related to an increased risk of clinical diabetes, hs-CRP appeared to be a more consistent predictor of increased risk in all four ethnic groups. These associations were independent of traditional risk factors such as obesity or elevated levels of glucose and insulin, previously reported by Liu and colleagues in the same multiethnic sample.

“The pro-inflammatory state is often linked to obesity,” said Liu, “which can lead to insulin resistance. So, identifying these markers by a simple blood test well before a disease begins not only can help improve mechanistic understanding of the disease, but also offer alternatives to lifestyle—hitting an optimal balance of nutrition, for example, and engaging in more exercise - relatively simple things that can prevent disease.”

Source: University of California - Los Angeles

Explore further: US scientists make embryonic stem cells from adult skin

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

New pain relief targets discovered

Apr 17, 2014

Scientists have identified new pain relief targets that could be used to provide relief from chemotherapy-induced pain. BBSRC-funded researchers at King's College London made the discovery when researching ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Low tolerance for pain? The reason may be in your genes

Researchers may have identified key genes linked to why some people have a higher tolerance for pain than others, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 66th Annual ...

How to keep your fitness goals on track

(HealthDay)—The New Year's resolutions many made to get fit have stalled by now. And one expert thinks that's because many people set their goals too high.

Cancer stem cells linked to drug resistance

Most drugs used to treat lung, breast and pancreatic cancers also promote drug-resistance and ultimately spur tumor growth. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.

Easter morning delivery for space station

Space station astronauts got a special Easter treat: a cargo ship full of supplies. The shipment arrived Sunday morning via the SpaceX company's Dragon cargo capsule.