Fractalkine: New protein target for controlling diabetes

April 11, 2013

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have identified a previously unknown biological mechanism involved in the regulation of pancreatic islet beta cells, whose role is to produce and release insulin. The discovery suggests a new therapeutic target for treating dysfunctional beta cells and type 2 diabetes, a disease affecting more than 25 million Americans.

Writing in the April 11, 2013 issue of Cell, Jerrold M. Olefsky, MD, associate dean for scientific affairs and distinguished professor of medicine, and colleagues say a transmembrane binding protein called fractalkine, which typically mediates cell-to-cell adhesion though its receptor, CX3CR1, can also be released from cells to circulate in the blood and stimulate insulin secretion.

"Our discovery of fractalkine's role in is novel and has never been talked about in prior literature," said Olefsky. More importantly, the research highlights fractalkine's apparently vital role in normal, healthy beta cell function. In mouse models and in cultured human islets, the researchers found administering the protein stimulated insulin secretion and improved , both key factors in diabetes. In contrast, fractalkine had no effect in mice or islets when the fractalkine receptor was deleted.

"Whether or not decreased fractalkine or impaired fractalkine signaling are causes of decreased beta cell function in diabetes is unknown," said Olefsky. "What we do know, without doubt, is that administration of fractalkine improves or restores insulin secretion in all of the mouse models we have examined, as well as in human ."

Olefsky said fractalkine or a protein analog could prove "a potential treatment to improve insulin secretion in type 2 diabetic patients. It might also improve beta cell function or beta cell health, beyond simply increasing , since fractalkine prevents beta cell apoptosis (cell death) and promotes the beta program.

"If successfully developed, this could be an important new complement to the therapeutic arsenal we use in type 2 diabetes," Olefsky continued. "It is not likely to 'cure' diabetes, but it would certainly do a good job at providing glycemic control."

Explore further: Insulin signaling is distorted in pancreases of Type 2 diabetics

Related Stories

The role of beta cell regeneration in type 2 diabetes

October 10, 2012

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared type 2 diabetes as the epidemic of the 21st century. A study is focusing on understanding the mechanisms underlying insulin resistance and the role of beta-cell regeneration.

Recommended for you

Major fall in diabetes-related amputations since the 1990s

November 22, 2015

A major new study has found a significant reduction in diabetes-related amputations since the mid-1990s, credited to improvements in diabetes care over this period. The research is published in Diabetologia (the journal of ...

Blocking immune cell treats new type of age-related diabetes

November 18, 2015

Diabetes is often the result of obesity and poor diet choices, but for some older adults the disease might simply be a consequence of aging. New research has discovered that diabetes—or insulin resistance—in aged, lean ...

Bacteria may cause type 2 diabetes

June 1, 2015

Bacteria and viruses have an obvious role in causing infectious diseases, but microbes have also been identified as the surprising cause of other illnesses, including cervical cancer (Human papilloma virus) and stomach ulcers ...


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.