Blood sugar levels in the body could be controlled by manipulating a group of hormone-producing cells in the brain, according to new research which sheds light on potential treatments for weight loss and diabetes.
In a study on fruit flies, neurobiologists at Wake Forest University discovered that when faced with reduced food intake, an enzyme called AMP-activated kinase stimulates the secretion of the adipokinetic hormone – the functional equivalent to glucagon – in the flies’ brains.
Typically, this hormone signals the release of stored sugar, which provides the energy that causes the flies to become hyperactive and search for food.
But when the researchers turned off AMP-activated kinase, they found that sugar release in the cells decreased almost immediately and the flies were no longer hyperactive, even though they were starving.
The finding offers new insight on ways to develop drug treatments that could help people lose weight without even exercising and enable diabetics to manage blood sugar levels without the need for insulin.
Lead investigator Erik Johnson commented: “Since fruit flies and humans share 30 per cent of the same genes and our brains are essentially wired the same way, it suggests that this discovery could inform metabolic research in general and diabetes research specifically.
“Exercise stimulates AMP-activated kinase, so manipulation of this molecule may lead to getting the benefits of exercise without exercising,” he added.
The study appears in the latest issue of the journal Genetics.

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