U Endocrinologist Receives 1.9 Million to Study How Obesity Makes the Heart Resistant to Insulin

U Endocrinologist Receives 1.9 Million to Study How Obesity Makes the Heart Resistant to Insulin

Aug 11, 2003 6:00 PM

University of Utah endocrinologist E. Dale Abel, M.D., Ph.D., has received a $1.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute to study how obesity makes the heart resistant to insulin.

"As people become obese, it's pretty clear they become insulin-resistant,"said Abel, assistant professor of internal medicine and an investigator with the U's Program in Human Molecular Biology and Genetics. "We are trying to understand the steps that lead to this."

Sheldon E. Litwin, M.D., cardiologist and associate professor of internal medicine, is co-investigator on the five-year grant.

Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, regulates the heart's ability to metabolize fatty acids, glucose, proteins, and other substances. As the heart becomes less responsive to insulin, the pattern of metabolism changes in heart muscle cells, leading to a buildup of potentially toxic substances. This can lead to enlargement of the heart and reduce its ability to recover from heart attacks.

With obesity increasing at an alarming rate, heart problems, along with diabetes, have increased markedly. If the researchers find that faulty responses of heart cells to insulin contribute to heart problems, treatments may be developed to improve the ability of insulin to act in the heart, Abel said.

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