Scientists at Maynooth University have identified a protein that has the potential to prevent the development of obesity-driven diabetes.

Obesity is a key factor in Type 2 diabetes, because excess abdominal fat causes fat cells to release an inflammatory chemical, which can make the body less sensitive to the hormone insulin.

Insulin resistance is a major trigger of Type 2 diabetes.

The Maynooth University team, led by Professor of Immunology Paul Moynagh, has discovered a protein in the body called 'Pellino3' that may block obesity-driven inflammation, and thus prevent insulin resistance.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Prof Moynagh said: "What we've shown is that when this protein is missing, that leads to insulin resistance and diabetes.

"When we look at the levels of this protein in fat tissue - especially in the abdomen - and compare the levels of this protein between obese and lean individuals, what we find is in lean individuals the levels of this protein are extremely high, whereas in obese individuals the levels are very low.

"So this is consistent with a proposal that this is a protective protein."

The research is being published in the international journal Immunity.