(PhysOrg.com) -- UCD researchers led by Conway Fellow, Professor Philip Newsholme have described how a polyunsaturated fatty acid, arachidonic acid, can positively impact on the function and survival of pancreatic beta-cells in the lipotoxic environment commonly associated with type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Type 2 diabetes mellitus is characterised by elevated blood glucose and lipid levels. The disease may also be characterised by elevated levels of saturated fatty acids circulating in the bloodstream leading to impaired insulin secretion. Pancreatic beta cell dysfunction in diabetes has been attributed to the exposure to elevated glucose and saturated non-esterified fatty acid levels over a sustained period leading to oxidative and endoplasmic reticulum stress.
Two key members of Professor Newsholmes group, Deirdre Keane and Hilton Takahashi, a visiting PhD student from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, in collaboration with scientists from the United Kingdom, focused on the effect of the polyunsaturate, arachidonic acid, on the functionality of a pancreatic beta-cell line. Their findings were published recently in the journal, Clinical Science.
The researchers described how the polyunsaturated fatty acid has important regulatory and protective beta-cell action including regulating the genes involved in the processes of proliferation and fatty acid metabolism, stimulating cell proliferation and insulin secretion as well as dampening the negative effects of a saturated fatty acid, palmitic acid, resulting in reduced apoptosis or cell death.
Commenting on the publication, Professor Newsholme said, Further work is now needed to elucidate the exact mechanisms of the cytoprotection afforded to pancreatic beta cells by arachidonic acid and how it can modulate insulin secretion. This may open new avenues for the treatment of this disease, which represents a severe health and economic burden worldwide.
The World Health Organisation estimates that 220 million people worldwide today have diabetes with 90% of them suffering from type 2 or the non-insulin dependent form. Type 2 diabetes is largely the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity. Until recently this type was only seen in adults but it is now also occurring in children.
This work has been supported by the Health Research Board of Ireland, the European Foundation for Study of Diabetes, Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation (UK) and the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Cientifico e Tecnologico (CNPq, Brazil).
Explore further: Team discovers key to preventing blindness and stroke devastation
More information: Arachidonic acid actions on functional integrity and attenuation of the negative effects of palmitic acid in a clonal pancreatic β-cell line. Deirdre C. Keane, Hilton K. Takahashi, Shalinee Dhayal, Noel G. Morgan, Rui Curi and Philip Newsholme. Clinical Science (2011) 120, (195206) PMID: 20840078 [PubMed - in process]Free PMC article