Inflammatory T cells in the immune system might cause type 2 diabetes and obesity, especially in Asians, a research team said on Friday.
After four years of research, the team from the National Health Research Institutes and Taichung Veterans General Hospital found that a lack of the enzyme MAP4K4 (mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase kinase kinase 4) might cause inflammatory T cells to multiply and become activated, which could cause type 2 diabetes.
Speaking at a news conference to announce the findings, researchers said that the lack of MAP4K4 and the increase of inflammatory T cells are highly correlated to high levels of blood glucose among type 2 diabetes patients, regardless of body mass index (BMI) or waist circumference.
The lack of MAP4K4 might be caused by DNA methylation, which changes the enzyme’s DNA structure, they said.
Research results were published in the journal Nature Communications in 2014 and in Oncotarget earlier this year.
Diabetes has been among the top five causes of death in Taiwan for the past 15 years, with the government spending NT$41 billion (US$1.26 billion) from National Health Insurance funds on the disease and the complications caused by it in 2014.
About 90 percent of diabetes patients in Taiwan have type 2 diabetes.
The institutes said that according to previous studies, obesity is the main cause of type 2 diabetes, but only 20 to 30 percent of Asian type 2 diabetics are overweight — defined as having a BMI higher than 27 — far less than their North American and European counterparts.
This shows that besides obesity, there might be other causes for people to develop type 2 diabetes, it said.
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