ISLAMABAD (Online): This was the suggestion that scientists made after finding that they could reverse prediabetes in mice with obesity by silencing an enzyme responsible for the final step of ceramide production.
Deactivating the enzyme, called dihydroceramide desaturase 1 (DES1), lowered levels of ceramide in the body, they note in a recentScience paper about their work.
Switching off DES1 also prevented mice on a high fat diet from developing fatty liver and insulin resistance. These two conditions are prime risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.
DES1 controls the conversion of dihydroceramide into ceramide with a small chemical shift of two hydrogen atoms. This subtle alteration effectively inserts a “double bond into the backbone” of the lipid molecule.
Previous investigations had already suggested that reducing ceramide levels could potentially reverse metabolic disease and diabetes. However, the methods that they used would result in severe side effects.
The new study takes the research in a more promising therapeutic direction. It suggests that it could be possible to reduce ceramide levels in a safe way with a small, well timed tweak to the process of ceramide production.
“Our work,” says co-senior study author Prof. Scott A. Summers, department chair of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, “shows that ceramides have an influential role in metabolic health.”
Scientists are still finding out how lowering the ceramides affects the body. However, there is evidence, Prof. Summers argues, of a link between ceramides and metabolic disease.
He says that some doctors are already carrying out tests of ceramide levels as a way to assess people’s risk for heart disease.
“Ceramides contribute to the lipotoxicity that underlies diabetes, hepatic steatosis [fatty liver], and heart disease,” note the authors of the new study.
If ceramides can be a cause of disease, what purpose do they serve in the body? The researchers investigated this question by assessing the impact of ceramide on metabolism.