Updated on 22 August 2013
Ganja molecules present naturally in the human body called endocannabinoids may be the cause for onset of type 2 diabetes
Singapore: Researchers at National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US have identified a molecule in the human body called endocannabinoid, which may be triggering the onset of type 2 diabetes, paving the way for a potentially new treatment method. Researchers from the University of Colorado Medical Campus, Aurora, and the University of Massachusesetts Medical School, Worcester were also part of the study.
One need not be a drug addict to increase the chances of developing diabetes. Action by a natural messenger in the human body endocannabinoid, which is similar to the active compound in marijuana is what is triggering the onset of diabetes, according to researchers at the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Studies conducted in rats by Dr George Kunos, scientific director of NIAAA and Dr Monica Skarulin at the diabetes center along with other researchers indicate that endocannabinoid activates macrophages in the pancreas. This in turn leads to activation of a protein complex within macrophages called Nirp3 inflammasome. This protein complex then releases molecules that cause the death of beta cells in the pancreas and leads to the onset of type 2 diabetes by reducing insulin production. Macrophages are immune system cells that are present in human tissue and have a key role in eliminating pathogens and dead cells from the body.
"This study is a significant milestone in an ongoing exploration of the endocannabinoid system's role in the metabolic complications of obesity," said NIAAA's acting director Dr Kenneth RWarren, in a statement released by NIH on August 19. The study has appeared in the online edition of science journal, Nature Medicine.
Lead author Dr Kunos said that, "The identities of the molecular and cellular actors in the inflammatory processes that underlie type 2 diabetes have remained elusive. Our study connects endocannabinoids to an inflammatory cascade leading to the loss of beta cells in the pancreas, which is a hallmark of type 2 diabetes."