The protein apelin, previously known to improve glucose metabolism, could become the focus of diabetes treatments, suggests a new study led by Hyung J. Chun, M.D., associate professor of medicine (cardiology).
The study, published in Science Translational Medicine on September 13, reports apelin’s receptors are located specifically on the endothelial cells that line the blood vessels and that apelin binding of its receptor prevents another protein—endothelial fatty-acid binding protein 4 (FABP4)—from importing fatty acids into the tissues. Excess fatty-acid accumulation can result in insulin resistance and poor glucose metabolism—the hallmarks of diabetes.
Chun’s team fed mice high-fat chow, which led them to gain weight and develop insulin resistance. Those mice also produced less apelin. Injecting those same mice with apelin improved their glucose metabolism.
Chun believes drugs that activate apelin receptors or inhibit FABP4 might be potential diabetes treatments. Further, since apelin prevents atherosclerosis in mice, such treatments could also address diabetes-associated cardiovascular problems.