Researchers have zeroed in on a key protein linked to diabetes, heart disease and stroke, a new study says. The overproduction of the protein clusterin can cause cardiometabolic syndrome, which is a combination of high blood pressure, high blood sugar, extra body fat around the waist and high cholesterol or triglyceride levels, according to research published this month in Diabetes Care.
“Our goal was to discover new factors produced by the cells in fat tissue that have an impact on cardiometabolic disease. In particular, we wanted to identify those important to maintaining the framework of fat tissue, called the extracellular matrix, which becomes dysfunctional in obesity,” said Dr. David Bradley, assistant professor at the Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University, said in a news release.
CMS greatly increases the risk for cardiovascular disease risk and mortality, fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes due to insulin resistance.
“A critical issue has been to identify a unifying mechanism for components of cardiometabolic syndrome, ” said Willa Hsueh, director of the Diabetes and Metabolism Research Center at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center and study lead researcher. “Fat cells increase clusterin production as they enlarge in obesity. Clusterin may be a biomarker of disease, as well as a therapeutic target to potentially prevent this disease.”
CMS afflicts approximately 25 percent of the world’s population, according to the World Health Organization. People with the condition are twice as likely to die from coronary heart disease and three times as likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke compared to those without it.
“This study shows the hypothesis generation power of emerging systems biology approaches in discovering novel targets and mechanisms on complex diseases such as CMS,” said Stephen T. C. Wong, chair of the Department of Systems Medicine and Bioengineering at Houston Methodist and study co-corresponding author. “The clusterin protein is a key component of the extracellular matrix, so this work opens up a new vista to understand the role of clusterin in inter-cellular crosstalk of tissue microenvironments of various diseases, including diabetes, cancer and neurodegeneration.”