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Recent Prog Horm Res. 2001;56:265-94.

Insulin resistance and its treatment by thiazolidinediones.

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State University of New York, Health Science Center at Brooklyn, 11203, USA.


Insulin resistance is a change in physiologic regulation such that a fixed dose of insulin causes less of an effect on glucose metabolism than occurs in normal individuals. The normal compensatory response to insulin resistance is an increase in insulin secretion that results in hyperinsulinemia. If the hyperinsulinemia is sufficient to overcome the insulin resistance, glucose regulation remains normal; if not, type 2 diabetes ensues. Associated with insulin resistance, however, is a cluster of other metabolic abnormalities involving body fat distribution, lipid metabolism, thrombosis and fibrinolysis, blood pressure regulation, and endothelial cell function. This cluster of abnormalities is referred to as the insulin resistance syndrome or the metabolic syndrome. It is causally related not only to the development of type 2 diabetes but also to cardiovascular disease. A major unresolved issue is whether there is a single underlying cause of this syndrome and, if so, what might it be? Several promising hypotheses have been proposed. There are some data to support the hypothesis that fetal malnutrition imprints on metabolic regulatory processes that, in later adult life, predispose to the development of the insulin resistance syndrome. Visceral obesity also has been a candidate for the cause of the syndrome. Whatever mechanism is ultimately found to be responsible, it will undoubtedly have both genetic and environmental components. Among the biochemical mediators that are likely to be responsible for the interference with insulin's effects on intermediary metabolism are free fatty acids and other products from adipose tissue. Recent data suggest that the substances stimulate serine phosphorylation of molecules involved in the initial steps of insulin action, thereby blocking the ability of these molecules to be tyrosine phosphorylated and initiate the subsequent steps of the insulin action cascade. The thiazolidinediones are a new class of agents that have been developed to treat type 2 diabetic patients. These drugs act as peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARgamma) agonists. Following their binding to the receptor, the heterodimer molecule that contains the binding site is activated. The activated complex binds to the response elements of specific genes that regulate molecules that effect insulin action and lipid metabolism. These genes are either activated or inhibited. Specifically, the thiazolidinediones improve insulin action and decrease insulin resistance. The exact mechanism by which these agents decrease insulin resistance is not clear but they do decrease the elevated free fatty acid levels present in insulin-resistant patients and they appear to change the body distribution of adipose tissue. Treatment of insulin-resistant type 2 diabetic patients with thiazolidinediones not only improves glycemic control and decreases insulin resistance, it also improves many of the abnormalities that are part of the insulin resistance syndrome.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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