In a study that could have major implications for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, a team of researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health have discovered a molecular switch that can turn off cellular mechanisms that protect against aging and metabolic dysfunctions.
The team reported in the journal Cell Metabolism that the SMRT protein accumulates more on older cells. This increases the effects of oxidative stress on the cells’ mitochondria, which are responsible for the energy production and metabolic functions of cells. This damage increases the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes. Additionally, SMRT turns off the production of other proteins that protect against oxidative stress and promote the burning of fat.
“This finding is significant since increased oxidative stress, coupled with reduced metabolic function, contributes to the aging process and the development of age-related metabolic diseases,” said lead researcher Reilly Lee.
Lee added that while much more research is necessary for scientists to gain a full understanding of the process, it could be a target of medications that reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and other metabolic problems.