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Hepatic dysfunction and insulin insensitivity in type 2 diabetes mellitus: A critical target for insulin-sensitizing agents

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Philip Home



The liver plays an essential role in maintaining glucose homeostasis, which includes insulin-mediated processes such as hepatic glucose output (HGO) and uptake, as well as in clearance of insulin itself. In type 2 diabetes, the onset of hyperglycaemia [itself a potent inhibitor of hepatic glucose output (HGO)], alongside hyperinsulinaemia, indicates the presence of hepatic insulin insensitivity. Increased HGO is central to the onset of hyperglycaemia and highlights the need to target hepatic insulin insensitivity as a central component of glucose-lowering therapy. The mechanisms underlying the development of hepatic insulin insensitivity are not well understood, but may be influenced by factors such as fatty acid oversupply and altered adipocytokine release from dysfunctional adipose tissue and increased liver fat content. Furthermore, although the impact of insulin insensitivity as a marker of cardiovascular disease is well known, the specific role of hepatic insulin insensitivity is less clear. The pharmacological tools available to improve insulin sensitivity include the biguanides (metformin) and thiazolidinediones (rosiglitazone and pioglitazone). Data from a number of sources indicate that thiazolidinediones, in particular, can improve multiple aspects of hepatic dysfunction, including reducing HGO, insulin insensitivity and liver fat content, as well as improving other markers of liver function and the levels of mediators with potential involvement in hepatic function, including fatty acids and adipocytokines. The current review addresses this topic from the perspective of the role of the liver in maintaining glucose homeostasis, its key involvement in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes and the tools currently available to reduce hepatic insulin insensitivity. © 2007 The Authors Journal Compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Home P, Pacini G

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism

Year: 2008

Volume: 10

Issue: 9

Pages: 699-718

ISSN (print): 1462-8902

ISSN (electronic): 1463-1326


DOI: 10.1111/j.1463-1326.2007.00761.x