Researchers who have studied obesity and diabetes asked if both these diseases could be termed autoimmune diseases and announced today that Type 2 – diabetes can be termed autoimmune disease and it causes obesity. The human version of anti-CD20, called rituximab, is already FDA-approved to treat some blood cancers and autoimmune disorders. Which may lead to an interesting inquiry: Could this FDA – approved treatment for autoimmune disorders also treat some cases of obesity and all cases of Type 2-diabetes? Published in two articles in Nature medicine, one today and one earlier.
According to co-first author Daniel Winer, MD:
This work will change the way people think about obesity, and will likely impact medicine for years to come as physicians begin to switch their focus to immune-modulating treatments for type-2 diabetes.
Type-2 diabetes is characterized by the gradual development of insulin resistance, which affects the ability of the body to properly metabolize glucose. It’s associated with being overweight, but it can also have a genetic component. Despite the fact that millions of people have type-2 diabetes, the root cause of the insulin resistance is not known. In 2009, Daniel and Shawn Winer showed (also in Nature Medicine; subscription required) that T cells of the immune system were involved. Now they found that another immune cell, called a B cell, also plays an important role.