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T2DM risk

Protein could predict T2DM risk

Individuals who have above-average levels of SFRP4 are five times more likely to develop diabetes
Anders Rosengren

Researchers at Lund University believe they have identified a protein, called SFRP4, which could have huge implications for patients who are at risk from developing type 2 diabetes.

“We have shown that individuals who have above-average levels of SFRP4 in the blood are five times more likely to develop diabetes in the next few years than those with below-average levels", said Anders Rosengren, a researcher at the Lund University Diabetes Centre, Sweden. “This makes it a strong risk marker that is present several years before diagnosis.”

The study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, is the first time a link has been established between the protein SFRP4, which plays a role in inflammatory processes in the body, and the risk of type 2 diabetes.

The researchers at Lund compared donated insulin-producing beta cells from diabetic individuals and non-diabetic individuals. The results revealed that cells from diabetics have significantly higher levels of the protein.

The level of the protein SFRP4 in the blood of non-diabetics was measured three times at intervals of three years. Thirty-seven per cent of those who had higher than average levels developed diabetes during the period of the study. Among those with a lower than average level, only nine per cent developed the condition

"The theory has been that low-grade chronic inflammation weakens the beta cells so that they are no longer able to secrete sufficient insulin,” said Dr Taman Mahdi, main author of the study. “There are no doubt multiple reasons for the weakness, but the SFRP4 protein is one of them.”

The marker works independently of other known risk factors for type 2 diabetes, for example obesity and age.

“We have also identified the mechanism for how SFRP4 impairs the secretion of insulin. The marker therefore reflects not only an increased risk, but also an on-going disease process", said Rosengren. "If we can point to an increased risk of diabetes in a middle-aged individual of normal weight using a simple blood test, up to ten years before the disease develops, this could provide strong motivation to them to improve their lifestyle to reduce the risk.”

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