A research project at Joslin Diabetes Center is investigating people at risk of diabetes in an attempt to identify ways of developing new drugs . In examining the range of conditions, from healthy to full diabetes, the study uncovered a molecular pathway that could provide new targets for drug treatments.
Researcher, Mary-Elizabeth Patti, commented “To identify factors that play a primary role in disease susceptibility, we want to investigate people before they get to that point.” The study, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigatio, took very small samples from people who were either healthy, had a family history of diabetes and exhibited some signs of insulin resistance although their blood glucose levels were normal, or who had full-blown type 2 diabetes .
For the second and last of these three groups, a gene called STARS was found more than twice as much as in healthy people. STARS is known to activate another gene, SRF, and a group of genes regulated by SRF and a co-activator protein, MKL1, exhibited the greatest rise in expression in the cells of those with type 2 diabetes. Similar findings were found when those cells were cultivated in vitro.
To find out if this molecular pathway actually helped to trigger insulin resistance, the researchers then examined muscle cells from rodents, lowered the expression of STARS and revealed that glucose uptake increased in the cells.
Dr. Patti said “This pathway holds promise as a target for novel diabetes therapies, and it also gives us tools to understand the pathways of progression to diabetes.”

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