An antibody used to regulate glucose and treat fatty liver disease could be an effective treatment for type 2 diabetes, according to new research.

The study, conducted at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, used an antibody that targets the hormone aP2 (sometimes called FABP4). AP2 is a protein that binds fatty acids. It is found in adipose tissue.

In people and mice with obesity, levels of aP2 are high. The researchers write that high levels “strongly correlate with metabolic complications,” and conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

The researchers found that a monocolonal antibody (mAB) called CA33 lowered fasting blood glucose, increased insulin sensitivity and lowered fat mass in obese mouse models. In mice that had low levels of aP2, the antibody did not work.

The research is at a preliminary stage, but it has significant potential to contribute to type 2 diabetes research. If further studies on the subject are successful, it could form the basis of new treatments for type 2 diabetes.

“The importance of this study is two-fold – first, demonstrating the importance of aP2 as a critical hormone in abnormal glucose metabolism, and secondly, showing that aP2 can be effectively targeted to treat diabetes and potentially other immunometabolic disease,” said Gokhan S. Hotamisligil, a professor at Harvard Chan School.

The findings are published in Science Translational Medicine.