Researchers identify a key enzyme in synthesis of new class of lipids

By The Science Advisory Board staff writers

June 20, 2022 -- Endocrinologists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) have identified a key enzyme in producing a new class of lipids with beneficial effects on insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control in humans and mice that could result in new treatments for type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Researchers have identified a key enzyme in the synthesis of a new class of lipids called branched fatty acid (FA) esters of hydroxy FAs (FAHFAs). Understanding how FAHFAs are synthesized could lead to therapies to maintain or restore FAHFA levels in people with metabolic or immune-mediated disorders.

"The long-term goal is to safely replace insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells in people with type 1 diabetes, but this would require a way to protect those cells from attack by the immune system," said Dr. Barbara Kahn, vice chair for research strategy in the Department of Medicine at BIDMC. "We have shown that these FAHFA lipids protect beta cells from immune attack and metabolic stress. If we could increase FAHFA levels, we think this could be beneficial for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes."

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