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Scientists discover molecule that signals insulin production

Category: Diabetes

A new discovery from a team of Johns Hopkins University researchers could lead to new medications that improve insulin test results for individuals who have diabetes. The scientists believe they have discovered the molecular switch that turns on the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.

The researchers said that little was known about the mechanisms that control insulin production. This made it difficult to design medications that spur the body to produce higher levels. However, their findings show a new potential target for these medications.

They observed that mice who were genetically engineered to always have the protein Snapin active in the pancreas produced roughly three time the amount of insulin as normal mice. This protein was previously shown to act as a messenger between nerve cells, so the researchers it makes sense that it could also have a signaling function in the pancreas.

"Before our discovery, the mechanism behind how exactly the insulin-producing beta cells in the islet of Langerhans of the pancreas fail in type 2 diabetes was incompletely understood, making it difficult to design new and better therapies," said Mehboob Hussain, who led the study. "Our research cracks open a decades-long mystery."

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