Bypassing the insulin highway

April 28, 2008

An immune cell known as a neutrophil releases a protein that can suppress glucose production in the liver –without targeting insulin, researchers have found.

Neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, produce special immune proteins called defensins which seem to have a connection with glucose levels. During bacterial infection, defensin production can increase dramatically, a rise that frequently results in hypoglycemia. In addition, many patients with type II diabetes have decreased defensin levels.

To study this connection further, Wenhong Cao and colleagues tested the effects of human defensin HNP-1 on both isolated cells and rodent models. Treating liver cells with HNP-1 suppressed the expression of several glucose-producing genes and decreased cellular glucose levels, but did not activate or alter the expression of the insulin receptor at all. This inhibition extended to animals, as HNP-1 reduced blood glucose levels in both normal mice and diabetic rats.

These findings provide some more information linking the immune system and metabolism, and also offer a new avenue to target diabetics who do not respond well to traditional insulin-based treatments.

Source: American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Hubble discovers a unique type of object in the Solar System

September 20, 2017

With the help of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, a German-led group of astronomers have observed the intriguing characteristics of an unusual type of object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter: two asteroids ...

Mathematics predicts a sixth mass extinction by 2100

September 20, 2017

In the past 540 million years, the Earth has endured five mass extinction events, each involving processes that upended the normal cycling of carbon through the atmosphere and oceans. These globally fatal perturbations in ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

superhuman
not rated yet Apr 28, 2008
This is most likely a defense mechanism against attacking microbes - lowering glucose levels is a surefire way to slow down their divisions.

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.