Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Nobelist proposes unconventional view of type 2 diabetes causation

Date:
February 27, 2014
Source:
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Summary:
At 85, Nobel laureate James D. Watson, the co-discoverer of the double-helix structure of DNA, continues to advance intriguing scientific ideas. His latest, a hypothesis on the causation of type 2 diabetes, suggests that diabetes, dementias, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers are linked to a failure to generate sufficient biological oxidants, called reactive oxygen species (ROS). Watson also argues the case for a better understanding of the role of exercise in helping to remedy this deficiency.

Watson's hypothesis suggests that diabetes, dementias, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers are linked to a failure to generate sufficient biological oxidants. Watson also argues the case for a better understanding of the role of exercise in helping to remedy this deficiency.
Credit: stockyimages / Fotolia

At 85, Nobel laureate James D. Watson, the co-discoverer of the double-helix structure of DNA, continues to advance intriguing scientific ideas. His latest, a hypothesis on the causation of type 2 diabetes, will appear in the online pages of The Lancet, the British medical journal.

Related Articles


Watson's hypothesis, which is featured as the Lancet cover story in the U.S. print edition dated March 1-7, 2014, suggests that diabetes, dementias, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers are linked to a failure to generate sufficient biological oxidants, called reactive oxygen species (ROS). Watson also argues the case for a better understanding of the role of exercise in helping to remedy this deficiency.

"The prevalent view of type 2 diabetes," Dr. Watson says, "is that an excess of intracellular oxidation causes inflammation, which in turn kills cells in pancreatic tissue." Proper function of those cells, it is well understood, is critical for the maintenance of normal blood glucose levels.

Over the last several years Watson has been puzzling out an alternative view, based on facts reported in the peer-reviewed literature of medicine and molecular biology. (He makes clear that he is not a medical doctor, rather a student of science.) He does not question that pancreatic tissue in people with type 2 diabetes is indeed inflamed. But he does present a novel theory of why. "The fundamental cause, I suggest, is a lack of biological oxidants, not an excess," he says.

For years, Watson knew, doctors have been telling patients with incipient type 2 diabetes -- those with high blood sugar levels -- to exercise, often before putting them on a well-proven glucose-lowering drug regimen such as Metformin. Exercise seemed to Watson the key to the puzzle: what was it about exercise that served to benefit people with high blood sugar?

There were important clues, he speculated, in the chemistry of oxidation and reduction reactions. The body's cells cannot survive without making both oxidants and antioxidants. "There is a delicate balance" between the two, Watson observes. Physical exercise prompts the body to make large numbers of oxidants -- molecules called reactive oxygen species, or ROS. In a cellular organ called the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), one such "species," the oxidant hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), helps forge chemical bonds (disulfide bonds) which stabilize proteins as they fold.

When there is not enough oxidation in the ER, Watson says, proteins emerge unfolded, and cannot function. This, he proposes, causes the inflammation that harms the pancreas, sometimes causing type 2 diabetes. Hence, Watson suggests, exercise, which promotes oxidation, plausibly can have a beneficial effect on those with high blood sugar. Such benefit would be lessened if not abolished, he speculates, if such an individual consumed large quantities of antioxidants -- just as athletes who take large quantities of antioxidant supplements do not seem to benefit or benefit less from their exertions.

Watson has two take-home messages for his audience. "The first is that we sorely need to take a much more serious and thorough scientific look at the mechanisms through which exercise improves our health." Watson is planning a scientific meeting at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory later this year which he hopes will launch a larger scientific effort.

There is a second message. "I am not a physician and I cannot offer advice about how people should treat their diabetes; I am advancing a novel idea about how type 2 diabetes can occur. But I also note that just about every doctor I've ever known tells every patient who is capable of doing so to exercise. I think exercise helps us produce healthy, functional proteins. But we really need to have some high quality research to demonstrate this."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. The original article was written by Peter Tarr. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. James D Watson. Type 2 diabetes as a redox disease. The Lancet, 2014; 383 (9919): 841 DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(13)62365-X

Cite This Page:

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. "Nobelist proposes unconventional view of type 2 diabetes causation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 February 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140227213430.htm>.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. (2014, February 27). Nobelist proposes unconventional view of type 2 diabetes causation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140227213430.htm
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. "Nobelist proposes unconventional view of type 2 diabetes causation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140227213430.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Touch-Free Smart Phone Empowers Mobility-Impaired

Touch-Free Smart Phone Empowers Mobility-Impaired

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) A touch-free phone developed in Israel enables the mobility-impaired to operate smart phones with just a movement of the head. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) Polish scientists isolate bacteria from earthworm intestines which they say may be used in antibiotics and cancer treatments. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Existing Chemical Compounds Could Revive Failing Antibiotics, Says Danish Scientist

Existing Chemical Compounds Could Revive Failing Antibiotics, Says Danish Scientist

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) A team of scientists led by Danish chemist Jorn Christensen says they have isolated two chemical compounds within an existing antipsychotic medication that could be used to help a range of failing antibiotics work against killer bacterial infections, such as Tuberculosis. Jim Drury went to meet him. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hugging It Out Could Help You Ward Off A Cold

Hugging It Out Could Help You Ward Off A Cold

Newsy (Dec. 21, 2014) Carnegie Mellon researchers found frequent hugs can help people avoid stress-related illnesses. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins