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New findings may solve mystery about how starvation hormone affects multiple biological systems

October 14, 2015

"One beauty of this study is that the findings are in both animal models and in vitro," Dr. Holland said. "We were able to show using these models of apoptosis in the beta cell and the heart that we can protect those cells from cell death with adiponectin."

Adiponectin, which Dr. Scherer discovered in 1994, not only controls sensitivity to insulin but also is known to play an integral role in metabolism and obesity. Prior research has shown that when adiponectin levels are high, the body stores excess fat in adipocytes, or fat cells, to protect against possible starvation during lean times. These fat deposits lie primarily in the subcutaneous tissue.

As a person accumulates more fat, however, adiponectin levels decline. Once adiponectin levels start dropping, the body begins storing fat in dangerous places such as the heart, liver and muscle tissues - where it can cause inflammation and pave the way for heart disease. That's why researchers think that adiponectin levels could be a good predictor of whether someone is at risk of developing diabetes, heart disease or cancer.

SOURCE UT Southwestern Medical Center