The metabolic benefits of exercise: is irisin the magic bullet?

By Ralitsa Madsen, Institute of Metabolic Science, Cambridge, UK

RalitsaM2Iris, the Greek Goddess messenger between humans on Earth and the Gods on Mount Olympus, has made an entry into human biology by providing inspiration for the name of a skeletal muscle-derived hormone. Irisin belongs to the class of myokines, which are molecules released by skeletal muscle in response to exercise and act as messengers to other tissues, including liver, fat and the brain. Given the beneficial effects of exercise, particularly in the context of obesity and Type 2 Diabetes, major efforts have been invested into discovering myokines of potential therapeutic value. Irisin seems to have it all, with multiple animal studies confirming its metabolic benefits such as lowering of blood glucose and lipid levels. Continue reading

Blood vessel growth and metabolic stress

By Sayan Chakraborty, Senior Researcher at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, A-STAR, Singapore

In our hectic modern lifestyle, we are constantly subjected to stress of many kinds including the stress experienced by our body from weight-gain. From the physiological perspective, these symptoms are managed by signalling molecules present in the body that control energy expenditure and form new blood vessels (angiogenesis) to cope with increased ‘cellular stress’ levels. These physiological consequences can be precursors to conditions such as type 2 diabetes, one symptom of which is increased angiogenesis.

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Proliferative retinopathy, an advanced form of diabetic retinopathy, occurs when abnormal new blood vessels and scar tissue form on the surface of the retina. (Credit: National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, USA) Continue reading