Is this protein a marker of cardiometabolic syndrome?

cardiometabolic syndrome

A recent study investigated the association between the protein clusterin, a protein found in high levels in fat tissue cells, and cardiometabolic syndrome.

Clusterin is a protein found inside the cell. Previous research has focused on the role this protein plays in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. However, new studies are showing it may play a broader role in the body and diseases. In particular, it has been linked to cardiometabolic syndrome, a disease that affects an estimated 25% of the global population.

Overproduced in the fat cells of obese individuals, clusterin has been strongly associated with insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when the body cannot respond to inulin like it should and can occur before prediabetes or the development of cardiometabolic syndrome.

What is cardiometabolic syndrome?

Cardiometabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions which occur simultaneously. These conditions include high blood sugar, high blood pressure, excess body fat around the waist, along with abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels. These conditions, when they occur together, increase an individual’s risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Smoking and minimal physical activity also increase an individual’s risk of developing cardiometabolic syndrome. People with cardiometabolic syndrome are three times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke and two times more likely to have coronary heart disease compared to those who do not have it.

A study which spanned almost a decade by researchers at The Ohio State University College of Medicine took a closer look at whether the protein clusterin is linked to cardiometabolic syndrome. Their results were recently published in Diabetes Care.

The study included 54 obese and 18 lean patients who were undergoing elective surgery at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center. Each participant underwent blood measurements and researchers also performed gene expression and correlation analysis. Mice prone to developing obesity-associated problems and human cultured cells were also used in the study.

Clusterin strongly liked to insulin resistance

The results showed the protein clusterin, which is produced in excess amounts in fat cells of obese patients, is strongly linked to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is the major cause of type 2 diabetes. The study also showed a correlation between the protein clusterin levels and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, fatty liver disease and high cholesterol levels, which can be harmful.

This research highlights the importance of clusterin on cardiometabolic syndrome, a life-threatening combination obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. Further research is needed to understand how clusterin impacts each complication related to cardiometabolic syndrome. However, as clusterin production increases with the growth of fat cells, this suggests clusterin may be a biomarker for this disease and therefore a novel target to develop potential new treatments to prevent the disease.

Written by Lacey Hizartzidis, PhD


  1. Bradley D, Blaszczak A, Yin Z, Liu J, Joseph JJ, Wright V, Anandani K, Needleman B, Noria S, Renton D, Yearsley M, Wong STC, Hsueh WA. Clusterin Impairs Hepatic Insulin Sensitivity and Adipocyte Clusterin Associates With Cardiometabolic Risk. Diabetes Care. 2019 Mar;42(3):466-475. doi: 10.2337/dc18-0870. Epub 2019 Jan 18.
  2. Ohio State-led study links protein, clusterin, to cardiac and metabolic diseases. EurekAlert website Accessed February 14, 2019.