A new study has found that defects in cilia, tiny extensions on cells, could be associated with the development of type 2 diabetes.
The study, published in Nature Communications, reports that cilia plays an important role in the release of insulin, with insulin receptors covering the cilia of beta cells in the pancreas.
While cilia have been attributed with many important functions, such as the transduction of signals in cells, defects in cilia have also been linked to several diseases.
Insulin release study
Scientists at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, University of College London and the Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen (HMGU) investigated the role of cilia in regulating blood glucose and type 2 diabetes.
They sought to stimulate beta cells with glucose and found the number of insulin receptors on the cilia increased. Insulin binds to these receptors when circulating, which then stimulates more insulin into the blood.
Having found cilia plays an important role in the release of insulin, the research teams also found that insulin release was reduced in mice with few or defective cilia.
As a result, the mice had significantly elevated blood glucose levels, with Per-Olof Berggren at the Rolf Luft Research Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology at Karolinska, confirming: “Ciliary dysfunction and defective glucose utilization are directly linked.
“Ciliopathies therefore have a potential function as models in the investigation of many still unknown mechanisms that underlie diabetes”.

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