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Markers for Inflammation in Obesity and Diabetes

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DDI finds potentially critical biomarker of metabolic inflammation in obesity and diabetes

Obesity, an important risk factor in the development of diabetes, is often associated with chronic inflammation. When fat cells become larger, they produce chemicals (adipocytokines) that lead to inflammation. Chronic inflammation raises the risk of other serious conditions, including heart attack, stroke and cancer. Scientists also believe that chronic inflammation may be the key developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

At the Immunology and Microbiology Department at DDI, researchers try to better understand inflammation and its role in the onset and development of diabetes. In a recently published article1 , researchers found that one particular immune system factor (interferon regulatory factor 5 [IRF5]) was expressed in higher amounts in fat cells of diabetic obese patients.

We are constantly looking for prognostic biomarkers of inflammation in diabetes, as they would help determine early on the degree of metabolic inflammation in the patient

explains Dr. Sindhu, lead author of the study.

“We found that when comparing patients with diabetes, obese patients had higher expression of IRF5 in their fat cells than patients who were lean or overweight. We also found that in these patients, higher levels of IRF5 associated with higher levels of other inflammatory markers in fat cells”, he added.

Additionally, the researchers found that in non-obese diabetic patients, IRF5 correlated with higher body mass index (BMI) and percentage of body fat.

It is associated as well with other metabolic markers, including fasting glucose, plasma insulin, HOMA-IR, and CRP (a marker of systemic inflammation).

These results show that IRF5 may be used as a potential biomarker for metabolic inflammation.

The study highlights the critical role of IRF5 in adipose (fat) tissue in the context of diabesity (diabetes occurring with obesity). It has been published in the Open Access journal Cells.

 1 Sindhu S, Kochumon S, Thomas R, Bennakhi A, Al-Mulla F, Ahmad R. Enhanced Adipose Expression of Interferon Regulatory Factor (IRF)-5 Associates with the Signatures of Metabolic Inflammation in Diabetic Obese Patients. Cells. 2020;9(3):730. Published 2020 Mar 16. doi:10.3390/cells9030730 


Learn more about the science of diabetes What is CHRONIC INFLAMMATION?

INFLAMMATION happens when the body sends signals to the immune system to fight a potential threat (virus, toxins, bacteria). Chronic (continuous) inflammation happens when this response lingers, which may have damaging effects on tissues and organs. Chronic inflammation is an underlying cause of many conditions – such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and neurological diseases, and auto- immune diseases (such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis).


Increased abdominal fat leads to chronic low-grade inflammation, which also contributes to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. As type 2 diabetes develops, insulin resistance then causes increased inflammation, leading to a vicious cycle. Inflammation may also be a contributing factor to weight gain or cause difficulty in losing weight.

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