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Research sheds light on key molecule controlling blood glucose levels

Diabetes UK-funded researchers have uncovered the function of a molecule called ‘AS160’ and its role in promoting the uptake of glucose into muscle tissue in response to insulin. The new findings reveal more about how the body regulates blood glucose levels.

New way to improve blood glucose management

Most of the glucose absorbed from the blood is taken up by muscle tissue. In muscle cells, a molecule called GLUT4 (a glucose transporting protein) captures glucose from the blood and brings it inside the cell. Insulin is known to promote this process by increasing the number of GLUT4 molecules at the cell surface. Researchers have been working for decades to understand the molecular events involved in this in the hope of finding ways to help people with diabetes improve their blood glucose management.

The research, led by Professor Carol MacKintosh and Dr Kei Sakamoto at the Medical Research Council Protein Phosphorylation Unit in Dundee, has shown that the AS160 molecule functions as a key molecular switch that helps to attract the GLUT4 molecules to the cell surface in response to insulin. Therefore a drug that mimics the function of AS160 could potentially help to lower blood glucose levels by accelerating the uptake of glucose into muscle cells.

Important clue could lead to new Type 2 diabetes drug

"Diabetes UK is pleased to have supported this successful research that highlights AS160 as having an important function in maintaining glucose level stability and suggests how it might do this. Due to basic science research like this many technological, medical, and scientific breakthroughs that we benefit from today have been made possible and the knowledge gained through this research provides further hope of finding ways to improve blood glucose management and develop new diabetes drugs in the future," said Dr Victoria King, Head of Research at Diabetes UK.

Professor Carol MacKintosh and Dr Kei Sakamoto, lead researchers from the Medical Research Council Protein Phosphorylation Unit at the University of Dundee, said: "This work helps us to understand the detailed molecular control of blood glucose regulation in our body. We believe our new findings will provide an important clue for the generation of a new drug to treat Type 2 diabetes. We would like to thank Diabetes UK and Dundee and District Diabetes UK Voluntary Group for their enthusiastic support of our research."

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

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