Study uses sophisticated genetic engineering to improve insulin-producing beta cells

October 7, 2009

One of the biggest mysteries about diabetes is why specialized cells in the pancreas stop secreting insulin, which the body needs in order to store glucose from food. A team from the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) Research Institute has identified a protein that inhibits insulin production in mice - work that offers a new way of understanding, and perhaps of one day treating, both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

A study to be published today in the leading international journal Cell Metabolism describes how a research group led by Dr. Robert Screaton, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Apoptotic Signaling at the University of Ottawa, used sophisticated genetic engineering to remove or 'knock out' the Lkb1 gene from of laboratory mice. The result was an increase in both the size and number of beta cells, as well as greater amounts of insulin stored and released by the cells.

Importantly, the improved beta cell function lasted for at least five months, even in mice fed a high-fat diet designed to mimic the high caloric intake associated with Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 in humans.

"We were surprised by the impressive accumulation of Lkb1 in beta cells of diabetic mice, which suggested that Lkb1 might contribute to their impaired function. After removal of the Lkb1 gene, the beta cells grow larger, proliferate more, and secrete more insulin. It's a one-stop shop for the much needed ", said Dr. Screaton.

"The knockout on a high-fat diet have lower blood glucose. If this observation is confirmed in humans, it may give us another clue into the development of , and perhaps new treatment options".

"Type 1 and 2 diabetes, already common diseases, are showing disturbingly steady growth in incidence. The two conditions are among Canada's, and indeed the globe's, greatest health challenges," said Dr. Alex MacKenzie, CEO of the CHEO Research Institute and a physician who treats children with diabetes at CHEO. "The findings of Dr. Screaton's team introduce a novel and unanticipated potential therapeutic avenue for this costly and serious condition. It is some of the most important work to come out of our institute."

Source: Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute

Explore further: Researchers Find Food-free Route to Obesity

Related Stories

Researchers Find Food-free Route to Obesity

October 19, 2006

Can people get fat -- and risk debilitating diabetes -- without overeating? The answer may be yes, according to Timothy Kieffer, a University of British Columbia researcher, who has found that imbalance in the action of a ...

Fat cells send message that aids insulin secretion

November 6, 2007

The body's fat cells help the pancreas do its job of secreting insulin, according to research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. This previously unrecognized process ultimately could lead to new methods ...

Recommended for you

Chemists solve major piece of cellular mystery

August 27, 2015

Not just anything is allowed to enter the nucleus, the heart of eukaryotic cells where, among other things, genetic information is stored. A double membrane, called the nuclear envelope, serves as a wall, protecting the contents ...

Study reveals how nanochannels select potassium ions

August 25, 2015

(Phys.org)—One of the mysteries in biology is how cells can selectively diffuse potassium across a membrane. Biological systems rely on a delicate balance between these potassium and sodium ion concentrations in the surrounding ...

Unusual use of blue pigment found in ancient mummy portraits

August 26, 2015

Mostly untouched for 100 years, 15 Roman-era Egyptian mummy portraits and panel paintings were literally dusted off by scientists and art conservators from Northwestern University and the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.