Researchers have investigated how cholesterol can play a role in the release of insulin by the pancreas’ beta cells.

Research teams from the Lund University and the University of Sharjah focused their efforts on receptors which are found on the surface of beta cells. The study was led by Albert Salehi from Lund University.

Through their work, they discovered one particular receptor, the Orphan G protein coupled receptor 183 (GPR183), has a significant effect on the release of insulin.

They discovered that when GPR183 is activated, it boosts insulin release in cells from human donors and rats. The process involves the receptor binding to a specific metabolite, which forms when the liver metabolises cholesterol.

The basis of Salehi’s research is studying the impact and role of each receptor they have so far discovered on the surface of the beta cells.

The team think their GPR183 finding could explain why people with high cholesterol are often overweight.

Salehi states: “If you have high cholesterol, this specific metabolite is produced, and the consequence is an increased insulin release. This leads to hunger, possibly leading to eating more and gaining more weight. If we could block the receptor from binding to the metabolite, and regulate insulin release, this could reduce hunger.”

The researchers also believe their findings could help to develop ways to prevent people with type 2 diabetes from losing the ability to produce insulin. This can happen over time as beta cells get damaged by continually high glucose levels.

Salehi added: “If we can somehow activate this receptor in the future, it could lead to the development of drugs that stimulate insulin production in individuals with low levels of the cholesterol metabolite. This could be done with a substance similar to the specific cholesterol, with the ability to bind the receptor.”

The study was published in the journal, Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology.

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