A further step towards preventing diabetes

July 26, 2012, University of Geneva

Having identified the important role in controlling insulin secretion played by the protein Cx36, a team of scientists at the University of Geneva have perfected an innovative method which enables testing the effectiveness of thousands of molecules potentially usable in the fight against diabetes. This results of this research have already been published in the scientific review PLoS ONE.

produce insulin, responsible for controlling and thus essential for our survival. Among the numerous factors that affect the workings of these cells, a protein called Cx36 was identified a few months ago by a research team at the UNIGE. The scientists there had demonstrated that in , suitably modified so as not to produce any Cx36, synchronization of the beta cells ceased and went out of control. This de-synchronization of insulin secretion is the first measurable sign in people suspected of developing type 2 diabetes. Armed with this knowledge, the research team have set about finding which act directly on Cx36 with the objective of developing a novel to fighting diabetes.

Paolo Meda, Professor of and Metabolism in the University of Geneva's Faculty of Medicine, has set his team a real challenge - study the protein Cx36, present in minute quantities and almost impossible to detect using traditional techniques, and which has a half-life of around three hours!

Over one thousand drugs tested

Sabine Bavamian and Helena Pontes, researchers in Professor Meda's laboratory, set to work on developing a non-invasive system for understanding how Cx36 works. This project has been partly financed by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (USA) and the Swiss National Science Foundation and is using equipment in the Bio-Imaging department of UNIGE's Faculty of Medicine. The two scientists have been able to develop a new model using living cells which produce insulin and Cx36 in culture in order to be able rapidly to test a large number of potentially interesting molecules. With this novel approach, they have been able to analyse some 1040 molecules, enabling them to identify those that stimulate insulin production and those that inhibit it. Such discoveries should enable the roll out of new pharmacological treatment strategies for .

And what if animal venoms are not poisons after all?

Although there is now a large number of drugs that are prescribed for diabetics the world over to help alleviate de-synchronization, the majority of them have unfortunate side effects. And thus Professor Meda has decided to use the innovative technique developed by his team to test the effect on Cx36 of very different molecules, produced from animal venom. Such molecules should not give rise to the same type of problem posed by the traditional drugs used currently. The screening, or selection, of the venom should enable carrying out the necessary validation tests, initially in vitro, and then in vivo. «We have some 3 to 5 years work ahead of us, but we have very serious hopes of discovering molecules which act exclusively on Cx36, unlike all the currently identified molecules, with a view to limiting side-effects», explains Professor Meda. In the fight against diabetes, scientists are exploring numerous avenues, some of which are rather surprising.

Explore further: Connexins: Providing protection to cells destroyed in Type 1 diabetes

Related Stories

Connexins: Providing protection to cells destroyed in Type 1 diabetes

November 7, 2011
Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong disease characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. It is caused by the patient's immune system attacking and destroying the cells in their pancreas that produce the hormone ...

Decade of effort yields diabetes susceptibility gene: Tomosyn-2 regulates insulin secretion

October 6, 2011
Ten years of meticulous mouse breeding, screening, and record-keeping have finally paid off for Alan Attie and his lab members.

Recommended for you

Diabetes gene found that causes low and high blood sugar levels in the same family

January 15, 2018
A study of families with rare blood sugar conditions has revealed a new gene thought to be critical in the regulation of insulin, the key hormone in diabetes.

Discovery could lead to new therapies for diabetics

January 12, 2018
New research by MDI Biological Laboratory scientist Sandra Rieger, Ph.D., and her team has demonstrated that an enzyme she had previously identified as playing a role in peripheral neuropathy induced by cancer chemotherapy ...

Enzyme shown to regulate inflammation and metabolism in fat tissue

January 11, 2018
The human body has two primary kinds of fat—white fat, which stores excess calories and is associated with obesity, and brown fat, which burns calories in order to produce heat and has garnered interest as a potential means ...

Big strides made in diabetes care

January 5, 2018
(HealthDay)—This past year was a busy, productive one for diabetes research and care.

Gene therapy restores normal blood glucose levels in mice with type 1 diabetes

January 4, 2018
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease in which the immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, resulting in high blood levels of glucose. A study published January 4th in Cell Stem Cell ...

Goodbye, needles? Patch might be the future for blood-sugar tracking

January 4, 2018
(HealthDay)—Developers of a new patch hope to eliminate a big barrier in type 2 diabetes treatment—painful finger-sticks and injections. The new patch—which actually uses an array of tiny needles that researchers promise ...

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.