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Research finds clue to potential new diabetes drug

Diabetes UK-funded researchers have uncovered the function of a molecule called glucose-6 phosphate (G6P) and its role in turning blood glucose into glycogen. The discovery could help generate a new drug to treat diabetes.

Research, led by Dr Kei Sakamoto at the Medical Research Council Protein Phosphorylation Unit in Dundee, has shown how the G6P molecule activates an enzyme called glycogen synthase, a key metabolic switch that plays an important role in converting glucose into glycogen. The body stores excess blood glucose in the form of glycogen, mostly in the liver and in muscle cells. Therefore, efficient conversion of glucose to glycogen in these cells plays an important part in regulating blood glucose levels.

Study provides greater understanding

Scientists have known for over 40 years that G6P activates glycogen synthase in a test tube but unti now had little knowledge of how G6P did this in the body. The new findings could potentially provide important clues to create a new generation of drugs to treat Type 2 diabetes. Development of a drug that acts like G6P could potentially accelerate conversion of glucose from the blood into glycogen storage in the body.  

Dr Victoria King, Head of Research at Diabetes UK, said: "This research provides an important insight. Having a greater understanding of the management of glucose levels and the storage of glucose as glycogen provides another piece of the diabetes jigsaw which could help us produce new treatments for diabetes and find out more about how and why diabetes develops."

Dr Kei Sakamoto, lead researcher from Medical Research Council Protein Phosphorylation Unit at the University of Dundee, said: "This study helps us to understand a molecular pathway of blood glucose regulation. Our new findings can potentially provide an important clue for the generation of a new drug to treat Type 2 diabetes. I am grateful to Diabetes UK and Dundee and District Diabetes UK Voluntary Group for their wonderful support of our research."

The research is published in the journal 'Cell Metabolism'.

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