Researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) Research Institute have made an important discovery in the development of Type 2 diabetes that could prevent the onset of the disease.
The research team, led by Dr. Robert Screaton, senior scientist at the CHEO Research Institute, discovered a cellular pathway responsible for keeping blood-sugar levels low in obese or pre-diabetic people. The findings were published February in the journal Nature Cell Biology.
According to CHEO: “following a meal, beta cells found in islets of the pancreas secrete insulin that helps to store food energy for future use. The inability of islet beta cells to produce enough insulin leads to diabetes. Unlike other research that has focused on how to replicate beta cells, this study focused on how to make pre-existing beta cells more functional, or better at secreting insulin.”
The research was carried out in mice. Some obese mice were able to compensate for high blood sugar levels by increasing levels of the protein SIK2 in their beta cells. The mice without SIK2 secreted less insulin during feeding because they failed to turn off a switch protein called p35, which prevents insulin secretion when blood sugar levels are low. Researchers also found that SIK2 works with another protein, PJA2 to turn off p35[i]. Diabetic mice, in those tests, had lost the ability to turn up production of the protein SIK2, and could not compensate for high blood sugar levels.
A better understanding of the pathway involving SIK2 and PJA2 and how it effects insulin secretion provides researchers with new targets to try and improve the functionality of beta cells to prevent and treat Type 2 diabetes.
According to the Canadian Diabetes Association more than nine million Canadians live with diabetes or pre-diabetes. About 90% of people with diabetes have Type 2, where the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the body does not use the insulin that is produced effectively. People are typically diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in adulthood, although it is increasingly seen in children and adolescents.
[i] New pathway connected to type 2 diabetes.” ScienceDaily, 19 Mar. 2014. Web. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140319094223.htm