Novel lipid hormone for identifying and treating metabolic disease

Scientists in the Harvard School of Public Health have identified fatty acid C16:1n7-palmitoleate, a novel signaling lipid produced by adipose tissue, that protects mice from the detrimental effects of long-term consumption of high-fat diets. They demonstrated that an elevated level of C16:1n7 in serum suppresses lipogenesis in liver and significantly enhances systemic insulin action and glucose metabolism. If these results apply to humans, C16:1n7-palmitoleate can serve as a powerful biomarker to monitor metabolic disease susceptibility and will also provide a novel therapeutic strategy for the prevention and treatment of diabetes and fatty liver diseases.


Insulin resistance is the key factor of a collection of metabolic disorders including Type II diabetes, atherosclerosis, fatty liver disease, hypertension and dyslipidemia. The syndrome has reached epidemic levels worldwide, with 115 million individuals in 2004 suffering from metabolic disorders in the US, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK and this number is increasing rapidly, fuelled by the rising obesity and diabetes epidemic in industrializing countries such as China. The worldwide market size of metabolic syndrome is estimated at US$97.7 billion in 2008.

Existing therapies such as statins, anti-obesity and anti-diabetics drugs are associated with side effects, and the long-term safety of preventive medications is unproven. Furthermore, numerous medications are routinely used to treat patients with metabolic syndrome, putting them at risk for the occurrence of the adverse reactions ("side effects") and drug-drug interactions. These issues can be circumvented by identifying a common signaling molecule that modulates multiple pathways of the syndrome and hence serves as a diagnostic and therapeutic tool for metabolic diseases.

Intellectual Property Status: Patent(s) Pending