Bile Acids May Aid In Battle Against Diabetes

shutterstock_2044435Type 2 diabetes is a growing medical concern that is linked to the growing problem of obesity in many countries. The association may lie with how the body processes insulin. Type 2 diabetes comes as a result of the body not using insulin effectively. In the same way, obesity can cause the inflammation of fat tissue, which leads to the fat cells becoming more insensitive to insulin. Researchers are now trying to work on finding a way to overcome the loss of insensitivity to insulin as a way to fight diabetes. They may have found an answer while working with bile acids.

Researchers from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), in collaboration with scientists from Italy and the Netherlands, found out how bile acids can activate a little-known receptor that may overcome the loss of insulin sensitivity. This may lead to developing a new class of drugs to fight type 2 diabetes.

The research team, led by Kristina Schoonjans at EPFL, has identified a receptor located in immune cells called macrophages within the fat tissue that may inhibit its inflammation. Type 2 diabetes usually coincides with the chronic inflammation of the body’s fat tissues. This comes as a result of increased activity of macrophages found within the fat tissue that employs more macrophages through chemical signals. The researchers identified a macrophage receptor, called TGR5 can inhibit the chronic inflammation and can be activated by chemicals found in bile acids.

Scientists initially thought that bile acids are just restricted in the small intestine, aiding with the digestion of lipids. But recent studies undertaken by Schoonjans and her team discovered that bile acids can also enter into the bloodstream and act like hormones and affect receptors like TGR5. The researchers also found out that TGR5 can block the chemical signals that macrophages send to call more of their number into the fat tissue. When the researchers activated the said receptor with compounds similar to those found in bile acids, it triggered a molecular cascade that reduced the number of macrophages in tissues, which significantly reduced inflammation.

This discovery may open new avenues in dealing with inflammation associated with type-2 diabetes. Molecules that can mimic the effect of bile acids on receptors like TGR5 may be developed into potential drug to combat not only diabetes but also obesity. The results of the study are published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Source: Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne. (2014, November 3). How bile acids could fight diabetes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 4, 2014 from


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