An important step forward has been made in diabetes research, with researchers gaining a better understanding of how the ‘feel-good’ hormone dopamine regulates insulin.

Researchers from Tokyo Institute of Technology say their latest study “greatly improves our understanding of dopamine signalling in diabetes” and could pave the way for new therapy and new ways of using antidiabetic medication.

They have identified the mechanisms by which dopamine controls levels of insulin in the body, through a complex of receptors.

The team found that dopamine ‘receptors’ called D1 and D2 – proteins on cells that dopamine binds to – act together to achieve insulin regulation.

Professor Shoen Kume, who led the study, said: “We found that D1 receptor antagonists – drugs that block D1 receptors from activation – decreased the dopamine-mediated inhibition of insulin secretion. We also saw that overexpression of only D2 receptors on beta cells exerted an inhibitory and toxic effect and abolished insulin secretion in beta-cells. This gave us a clue to the mechanism of down-regulation.”

The team carried out further research, with Dr Kume adding: “From these findings it can be concluded that D1 modulates D2 signalling to protect beta-cells from the harmful effects of dopamine. This study greatly improves our understanding of dopamine signalling in diabetes.”

The study has been published in the journal Diabetes.

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