Targeting gp130 to prevent inflammation and promote insulin action

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Obesity and type 2 diabetes are now the most prevalent metabolic diseases in the Western world and the development of new strategies to treat these metabolic diseases is most warranted. Obesity results in a state of chronic low-grade inflammation in metabolically active tissues such as the liver, adipose tissue, brain and skeletal muscle. Work in our laboratory has focussed on the role of the cytokine interleukin-6 (IL)-6 and other IL-6-like cytokines that signal through the gp130 receptor complex. We have focussed on the role of blocking IL-6 trans-signalling to prevent inflammation on the one hand, and activating membrane-bound signalling to promote insulin sensitivity on the other hand. Since the cloning of the IL-6 gene nearly 30 years ago, a pattern has emerged associating IL-6 with a number of diseases associated with inflammation including rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Crohn's disease and several cancers. Accordingly, tocilizumab, an IL-6 receptor-inhibiting monoclonal antibody, is now useful for the treatment of RA. However, this may not be the most optimal strategy to block inflammation associated with IL-6 and may result in unwanted side effects that, paradoxically, could actually promote metabolic disease.

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