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Using the body’s own chemicals to treat type 2

Project summary

In type 2 diabetes, insulin-producing beta cells can stop making the insulin needed to regulate blood glucose levels. Some current medications help beta cells to work better, but they aren’t effective in everyone and some have side effects. Professor Persaud wants to see if a chemical released by the pancreas could help to boost insulin production. She hopes this research could lead to the development of a new treatment for type 2 diabetes, with fewer unwanted side effects.

Background to research

In people with type 2 diabetes, insulin-producing beta cells inside the pancreas stop producing enough insulin, or the insulin they do produce doesn’t work properly. This means that the body can’t regulate the levels of glucose in the blood. Type 2 diabetes medications can help beta cells to release more insulin, but they aren’t effective for everyone and sometimes they have side effects.

Professor Shanta Persaud has discovered a chemical – called ‘C1QL1’ – that’s produced by clusters of different cells in the pancreas. These clusters are known as islets. In her previous research, she tested the effects of C1QL1 and found that it caused beta cells to produce more insulin and protected the islets from dying. Because C1QL1 is produced naturally by the body, it has the potential to be a safe option for a new type 2 diabetes drug.

Research aims

The research team will closely study beta cells to find out exactly how and where C1Ql1-delta4 interacts with them. This specific molecule on the cell where the interaction takes place is called a ‘receptor’. Finding out which receptor C1Ql1-delta4 binds to is key in helping the team confirm how it works. Once they find the receptor, they can genetically edit islets so that they don’t have it anymore, to see if this changes their behaviour.

They will then study the effects of C1Ql1-delta4 in the lab, using islets taken from mice and people, to see if it helps the beta cells to produce more insulin and protect them from dying. Finally, they will give C1Ql1-delta4 to mice with type 2 diabetes and find out if it improves their blood glucose levels.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

Not everyone with type 2 can easily manage their blood sugar levels using the current medications available, and some treatments have side effects. This research is helping us to discover a potentially new way to treat type 2 diabetes and if successful, it will open doors to more research to investigate the safety and effectiveness of this new drug.

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