It’s been known for some time that obesity increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Australian researchers working with mice may have found the specific molecule responsible for this. And by blocking this molecule, they were able to reverse the effects of the disease, raising hopes of a cure.

In Type 2 diabetes, the body’s tissues, particularly the muscles and the liver, become less responsive to insulin. This causes blood sugar levels to rise. The pancreas tries to help out by producing more insulin. This overproduction stresses the pancreas and may eventually cause it to wear out. Then a person can’t even produce a normal amount of insulin, which raises blood sugar levels even higher, leading to diabetes.

The more fat cells there are, the more PEDF is released into the bloodstream.

Fat cells release a protein called PEDF (pigment epithelium−derived factor). The more fat cells there are, the more PEDF is released into the bloodstream. The researchers found that injection of PEDF into lean mice caused development of many of the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes, including increased insulin resistance. When PEDF was neutralized in obese mice, the mice regained their normal responsiveness to insulin. This suggests that it may be possible to reduce the effects of obesity−caused Type 2 diabetes or possibly even cure the condition.

Until now, PEDF was thought to play a role in the development of Type 2 diabetes, but no clear link had been established. This study demonstrates that link. It does not show that PEDF is the common cause of Type 2 diabetes, only that PEDF can cause symptoms very similar to Type 2 diabetes. It does strongly suggest that PEDF may be the magic bullet.

Weight loss generally improves the blood sugar level of diabetes patients. Lowered PEDF production may be the reason why. If PEDF does not play a vital role in cellular metabolism, medications that block it or inactivate it could stop the onset of Type 2 diabetes caused by obesity.

The results of the study were published July 8, 2009 in the journal Cell Metabolism.