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One fat cell subtype responds to insulin stimulation

Scientists have discovered that there are three different subtypes of mature fat cells in white adipose tissue and that it is only one of these – AdipoPLIN – that responds to insulin.

The findings, from a team at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, may be relevant for future treatments of metabolic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes.

Researcher Niklas Mejhert said: “These findings increase our knowledge about the function of fat tissue.

“They show that the overall capacity of fat tissue to respond to insulin is determined by the proportion and function of a specific fat cell subtype. This could have implications for diseases such as obesity, insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes.”

In the study, which is published in the journal Cell Metabolism, the researchers identified 18 cell classes that form clusters in white adipose tissue in humans. Of these, three constituted mature fat cells with distinct phenotypes.

To test if the fat cell subtypes were linked to any specific function, the researchers examined in part how these subtypes in four people reacted to short-term increases in insulin levels.

The results showed that insulin activated the gene expression in the subtype AdipoPLIN, but did not materially affect the other two subtypes.

Additionally, the response to insulin stimulation was proportional to the individual’s whole-body insulin sensitivity. 

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Image credit | Science-Photo-Library

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