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SORLA – Controlling insulin signals and promoting obesity

SORLA is a protein that influences the balance of metabolic processes in fat tissue. An increased amount of SORLA can make cells overly sensitive to insulin, which leads them to break down less fat. A collaborative team of researchers at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine and the University of Leipzig have discovered new mechanisms by which SORLA functions. By analysing the SORLA levels in 362 obese people, they found that the more SORLA you have, the more obese you are, they then established a causal link by expressing high levels of SORLA in mice, and analysing weight fluctuation patterns.

The researchers studied SORLA and found that it makes cells express more receptors for insulin, thereby making them oversensitive to it; this in turn meant that these cells would not break down fat, leading to deposits of fat in tissue. Disruptions in insulin signalling are a feature of diabetes and with this research a whole new pathway of insulin signalling has been discovered, which could lead to potential treatments of both diabetes and obesity.

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