Sugar production switch in liver may offer target for new diabetes therapies

Andy Hoang
EurekAlert

Salk researchers find molecular switch that controls liver glucose production and may represent a new avenue for treating insulin-resistant type II diabetes.

In their extraordinary quest to decode human metabolism, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have discovered a pair of molecules that regulates the liver’s production of glucose—- the simple sugar that is the source of energy in human cells and the central player in diabetes.

In a paper published April 8 in Nature, the scientists say that controlling the activity of these two molecules—- which work together to allow more or less glucose production—- could potentially offer a new way to lower blood sugar to treat insulin-resistant type II diabetes. They showed, through an experimental technique, that this was possible in diabetic mice.

“If you control these switches, you can control the production of glucose, which is really at the heart of the problem of type 2 diabetes,” says Professor Marc Montminy, head of Salk’s Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology.

The need for new drugs is accelerating, says Montminy, as almost 26 million Americans have type II diabetes, and an estimated 79 million people are at risk of developing the condition. Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and treatment costs are estimated at $116 billion annually.

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