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Can sorcin keep beta cells healthy?

Project summary

Molecular mechanisms linking Sorcin to pancreatic beta cell lipotoxicity and ER Ca2+ stores

In Type 2 diabetes, insulin-producing beta cells become exhausted over time and stop working properly. Dr Leclerc wants to know if a particular molecule – called sorcin – can protect beta cells against this exhaustion and keep them healthy. This work could inform the development of new treatments to do just that in the future. 

Background to research

In Type 2 diabetes, high levels of nutrients in the blood cause insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas to become stressed and stop working properly. Eventually, the beta cells are exhausted and people need to start taking insulin therapy to replace the work of the beta cells. Dr Leclerc’s research focuses on understanding how and why beta cells stop working properly, so that new drugs which can control blood glucose levels and keep beta cells healthy can be developed. Dr Leclerc’s team have discovered that a molecule called sorcin plays an important role in keeping beta cells working well. In their laboratory experiments, they found that beta cells with more sorcin were protected from stress caused by too many nutrients, while beta cells without enough sorcin stopped functioning properly. They believe that sorcin could be the key to new drugs that can control blood glucose levels and keep beta cells healthy.

Research aims

Dr Leclerc aims to work out exactly how beta cells stop working properly in Type 2 diabetes (when high levels of fat and sugar are available), and how to stop this from happening. Specifically, she wants to understand the role of sorcin in beta cell health, studying beta cells in the lab to follow sorcin’s activities and find out what it does and what it interacts with. This important picture will help to inform future research to develop new Type 2 diabetes treatments that keep beta cells healthy in the future.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

At Diabetes UK we want to find ways to stop Type 2 diabetes from progressing. While available Type 2 diabetes treatments can control blood glucose levels, scientists are still looking for ways to keep beta cells healthy. This is one approach that could stop Type 2 diabetes from progressing in the future, and this important research could inform the development of future treatments to do this. 

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