Researchers from the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology have uncovered a hormone which influences insulin sensitivity within muscles.

The hormone, which has been named MOTS-c, targets the muscles to restore insulin sensitivity and could represent a potential new treatment for type 2 diabetes. A unique aspect of the hormone is that its DNA is encoded in the DNA of mitochondria, the parts of the cells that produce energy.

Reverses insulin resistance

After discovering the hormone, the researchers tested its effects by injecting mice which had been fed a high calorie diet and had become obese and developed type 2 diabetes. The results showed that injections not only prevented mice putting on weight, despite being on a high calorie diet, but also reversed the effects of insulin resistance in the mice.

The researchers are optimistic that, whilst the research has only been carried out in mice so far, similar effects should appear in humans as the same molecular mechanisms exist in both mice and humans.

Lead author of the study and Assistant Professor of Gerontology, Changhan Lee, states: “This discovery sheds new light on mitochondria and positions them as active regulators of metabolism.”

The study was published online on 3 March of the Cell Metabolism journal.