A new discovery regarding insulin-producing cells could help determine future treatments for type 2 diabetes, Swedish researchers have said.
A team from the Sahlgrenska Academy looked at how genetic changes in the cells affected type 2 diabetes. They found a gene called SOX5 has a huge impact on the condition.
Anders Rosengre, associate professor from the Department of Neuroscience and Physiology and the Wallenberg Centre for Molecular and Translational Medicine at the University of Gothenburg, said: “If you experimentally suppress and deactivate SOX5, the function of the 168 genes deteriorate and the cells decrease in maturity.”
Rosengren’s team then found increasing levels of SOX5 also led to the 168 genes increasing, resulting in the normalization of insulin delivery.
During the trial the researchers studied 124 tissue samples, of which 41 were from people with type 2 diabetes. They were able to monitor genetic changes in the cells and how it affected the condition.
Rosengren compared their findings to air travel to make the results easier to understand. He said: “All airports are connected in a large network, but a disruption at a hub like Frankfurt Airport is much more serious than a disruption in Gothenburg. We searched out the hubs, i.e. the key genes, and the major links. Of almost 3,000 genes that were changed in diabetes, 168 could be described as Frankfurt genes. It was these we focused on.”
Increasing insulin resistance and reduced ability to produce insulin are both factors that contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes.
Rosengren added: “If you can affect things at the cellular level and restore the body’s own rapid regulatio, you can more accurately adjust blood sugar compared to what is possible with insulin injections.”
Researchers now think the latest findings will form the basis of new medication used to reestablish the maturity of insulin-producing cells. However, they reiterated that a healthy lifestyle is also important to maintain in a bid to prevent or control type 2 diabetes. Previous work has shown that SOX5 levels lower if a less healthy diet is followed along with little exercise.
The findings appear online in the journal Nature.

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