Researchers discover activators of a potential therapeutic target to treat patients with diabetes and insulin resistance


A scientific team has identified activators of the mitochondrial protein Mitofusin 2 to treat type 2 diabetes. This study, published in the journal Cell Chemical Biology, is led by Antonio Zorzano, professor at the Faculty of Biology, head of programme at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona), and  the Diabetes and Associated Metabolic Diseases Networking Biomedical Research Centre (CIBERDEM); and Fernando Albericio, professor at the Faculty of Chemistry of the  the University of Barcelona, and head of group at the the Bioengineering, Biomaterials and Nanomedicine Networking Biomedical Research Centre (CIBER-BBN).

Diabetes: changes in mitochondrial metabolism

The development of mitochondrial dysfunction is a relevant factor in insulin resistance. This protein is expressed at abnormally low levels in patients with diabetes. Previous studies by Antonio Zorzano’s group showed that mitochondrial dynamics—through Mitofusin 2—play a key role in the maintenance of cell capacity to respond to insulin

The current study has focused on the search for molecules that activate Mitofusin 2, a protein present in all mitochondria which allows us to produce energy from nutrients in function of environmental conditions,” says Antonio Zorzano. “This protein is a key regulator of many mitochondrial activities, as well as of the cell as a whole,” adds David Sebastián, member of the research team (UB, IRB Barcelona and CIBERDEM). Therefore, Mitofusin 2 deficiency leads to the development of insulin resistance, one of the first defects that trigger the onset of type 2 diabetes.

The researchers conclude that preventing the decrease in Mitofusin 2 levels may provide a therapeutic strategy to halt the development of insulin resistance in susceptible individuals and in patients with diabetes. Also, researchers from the University of Santiago de Compostela, University of Extremadura and the University of Queensland (Australia) –the latter hosting the first author of the study, Laia Miret-Casals─ took part in this study.

More personalised treatments for type 2 diabetes

Although there is a considerable range of oral antidiabetic drugs, sometimes they are not enough to maintain an efficient treatment and daily injections of insulin are needed. Moreover, the an alarming rise in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes,associated with an increase in the number of diabetic patients with severe insulin resistance and in patients that develop the disease early (aged under25). This context calls for the development of new treatments that prevent the progression of diabetes and that allow the application of personalised medicine.


 Universitat de Barcelona




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