Findings on Type 2 Diabetes in Obese Young People Presented at American Diabetes Association Conference

Posted on: 12 June 2009

At the   annual scientific meeting of the American Diabetes Association in New Orleans this week, the Metabolic Research Group based in Trinity College Dublin and St James’s Hospital led by Professor of Endocrinology,  John Nolan,   presented new data on the mechanisms which impair the effects of physical exercise in young people who have Type 2 diabetes.

Dr Hood Thabit, clinical research fellow in Professor Nolan’s group, described studies in young people with Type 2 (obesity-related) diabetes who completed one-week and three-month aerobic exercise training.  Despite the exercise programme, there were no improvements in physical fitness and no increase in glucose metabolism.  Studies of muscle tissue from these subjects have now shown very specific abnormalities in mitochondrial proteins mitofusin 2 and PGC-1-alpha in these patients – findings that were not observed in equally obese, but non-diabetic young people who took part in the same study. Mitochondria are the energy generating components of muscle cells, and this is the first report of such abnormalities in human subjects.

Commenting on the report, Professor John Nolan said: “Type 2 diabetes in young people is a new phenomenon, now recognised throughout the world, particularly in the US and Asia, but also increasing in Ireland. Our studies have given an important clue to the cause of this disease, and more importantly will allow us to design better treatments with diet and exercise for these patients.  We are currently conducting a longer intervention study with both diet and exercise in these young patients, and are optimistic that the results we have presented here today have made it possible for us to improve and customise treatment for early onset Type 2 diabetes.”

This research was performed at the Metabolic Research Unit at St James’s Hospital Dublin, and in collaboration with the laboratory of Professor Antonio Zorzano in Barcelona. These studies have been supported by grant funding from the European Federation for the Study of Diabetes as well as the Trinity Foundation.

Professor John Nolan, consultant endocrinologist and head of the Metabolic Research Unit at St James’s Hospital, is a leading diabetes clinical researcher in Ireland. His team is studying the causes of severe insulin resistance, a major forerunner of type 2 diabetes, and has published a paper on the previously unknown phenomenon of complete failure to respond to exercise training, in obese young people with Type 2 diabetes in the journal ‘Diabetologia’.