Yale Researchers Discover Diabetes 'On-Off Switch'

Tuesday, 29 Jul 2014 04:33 PM

By Nick Tate

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Yale University researchers have identified a mechanism in the brain that amounts to a molecular "on-off switch" for diabetes.

The discovery, published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, indicates that switch is the key to sensing glucose levels in the blood, linking it to both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, and the finding could lead to new treatments for the metabolic disorder, Medical Express reports.

Special: 2 Reasons Your Blood Sugar Is Making You Unhealthy

"We've discovered that the prolyl endopeptidase enzyme — located in a part of the hypothalamus known as the ventromedial nucleus — sets a series of steps in motion that control glucose levels in the blood," said lead researcher Sabrina Diano, professor in the Departments of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences, Comparative Medicine, and Neurobiology at Yale School of Medicine. "Our findings could eventually lead to new treatments for diabetes."
 
To reach their conclusions, the team studied mice that were genetically engineered to have low levels of the enzyme, which boosted levels of glucose in their blood and induced diabetes in the animals. The researchers believe the same mechanism are at work in humans.
 
"Because of the low levels of [the enzyme], the neurons were no longer sensitive to increased glucose levels and could not control the release of insulin from the pancreas, and the mice developed diabetes," said Diano, who is also a member of the Yale Program in Integrative Cell Signaling and Neurobiology of Metabolism.

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