MAR 27, 2016 09:39 AM PDT

MicroRNA Point to New Targets For Diabetes Treatment

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
Image credit: Pixabay.com


Since their discovery in the early 1990s and 2000s, micro-RNAs (miRNAs) have been implicated in a variety of human conditions. Most recently, researchers added yet another role of miRNAs in human health, this time in the regulation of weight and fat storage. As it turns out, a micro-RNA known as miR-181b is involved in influencing the risks for obesity and diabetes.    
 
Micro-RNAs are simple short nucleotide sequences, usually 21-23 bases long, that act to silence gene expression. There are currently hundreds of known miRNAs, and most exist in unique locations inside the human body.

For the study, researchers at the Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) investigated whether specific miRNAs reside in adipose tissues, and whether these structures affect insulin resistance leading to obesity. To answer these questions, the team studied obese mice and found lower expression of miR-181b in adipose tissue endothelial cells.
 
They next wondered whether rescuing the expression of miR-181b to normal levels would improve insulin resistance. Indeed, when they administered a synthesized mimic of miR-181b to the obese mice, the researchers observed an improvement in glucose homeostasis and insulin sensitivity. Furthermore, inflammatory responses in fat tissues were also markedly improved when miR-181b levels were rescued.
 
Then using bioinformatics and gene profiling approaches, the team identified the target of miR-181b: a protein phosphatase enzyme called PHLPP2. In mice missing PHLPP2, researchers found the same biological effects as increasing miR-181b levels. These included improvement in glucose homeostasis and insulin sensitivity. PHLPP2 levels were also found at higher levels in endothelial cells from diabetic patients versus healthy controls.
 
The results demonstrate a direct involvement of this micro-RNA in the regulation of fat tissues during obesity. Moreover, it suggests that PHLPP2 could be a potential new target for treating related conditions in humans. "The beneficial role of this microRNA in obesity is likely the tip of the iceberg since excessive inflammation is a pervasive finding in a wide-range of chronic inflammatory diseases,” said Mark W. Feinberg, associate physician at BWH and senior study author.

Additional source: Brigham and Women's Hospital via EurekAlert!

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
DEC 03, 2018
Cardiology
DEC 03, 2018
Alcohol Consumption: How Much Is Too Much for the Heart?
  Arteries stiffen over time as a result of aging, but heavy alcohol drinking habits over a lifetime can accelerate arterial aging, especially in men....
NOV 09, 2018
Cannabis Sciences
NOV 09, 2018
Cannabidiol Enhances Fracture Healing
The Journal of Bone and Mineral Research published a study showing that the cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) strengthens bones and accelerates the healing of...
JUN 02, 2018
Immunology
JUN 02, 2018
New Test Predicts Lupus Onset
Based on several different factors, scientists have a new risk index for predicting who will develop lupus. From the Feinstein Institute for Medical Resear...
JUL 01, 2018
Videos
JUL 01, 2018
Growing Patient Cells on a Chip for Personalized Drug Screens
This work could help eliminate animal models, and tailor medicine to the patient....
AUG 23, 2018
Cardiology
AUG 23, 2018
A Faster and Safe Heart Attack Diagnosis
A new clinical score can diagnose heart attack quickly and safely compared to traditional diagnostic methods....
DEC 05, 2018
Videos
DEC 05, 2018
Male Contraceptive Gel is in Clinical Trials
Researchers have started a clinical trial involving 420 participants to test the efficacy of a male contraceptive gel....
Loading Comments...