A new discovery about insulin release might hold the key to researchers understanding more about why type 2 diabetes develops.
A team from New Zealand has shown that a protein called beta catenin is essential for controlling insulin release into the blood.
This new trial was focused on a gene called TCF7L2, which had previously been linked to indicating whether people are likely to get type 2 diabetes or not.
Lead researcher Professor Peter Shepherd, from the University of Auckland, said: “We wanted to understand what happens in the body’s cells that are associated with TCF7L2 and how the processes that go on affect the regulation of glucose metabolism in the body.
“TCF7L2 binds directly to beta catenin. By observing this interaction, we found that beta catenin levels not only change in response to rising and falling nutrient levels, but that they also regulate how much insulin we have in our body and ensure that we have the right amount of insulin at the right time.”
Professor Shepherd said that although research previously has shown how hormones are released from cells this is the first time TCF7L2 has been linked to insulin.
He added: “One possible reason for this delay is that beta catenin has in the past been closely associated with cancer, not diabetes. Underneath the cell membrane there are layers of fibres called actin. These fibres form networks that somehow bind to insulin.
“This discovery potentially opens up a whole new drug discovery field to understand how we could manipulate beta catenin levels to control the release of insulin.”
The findings, which have been published in the Biological Chemistry journal, also suggested the same mechanism could control sugar in fat cells and the release of hormones in the brain that trigger hunger.

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