Novel fatty acid receptors in islet cells as therapeutic targets for diabetes
A student supervised by Professor Aine McKillop will investigate the role of islet cell receptors GPR55 and GPR120 as potential targets for new Type 2 diabetes therapies. They will focus on the mechanisms by which the receptors work and their ability to control insulin production and regulate glucose levels and islet cell numbers.
Background to research
Scientists are currently investigating a range of approaches to improve the regeneration and function of islet cells and enhance the production of insulin in Type 2 diabetes. Many studies are focused on receptors found on the surface of cells and on the intracellular signalling pathways that they activate. One key group of receptors are G-Protein Coupled Receptors (GPCRs), which are the target of around 50% of all new drugs. Targeting these receptors in islet cells might help to improve insulin production, increase islet cell numbers and reduce insulin resistance. Professor Aine McKillop and her team have recently found that two islet GPCRs (called GPR55 and GPR120) might have an important role to play in diabetes. The receptors are activated by a range of compounds, are found close to insulin on the surface of islet cells and promote the release of insulin and the lowering of glucose levels.
This PhD student on this project will use techniques developed over years at the University of Ulster to confirm that the cell surface receptors GPR55 and GPR120 are potential targets for new Type 2 diabetes therapies. They will investigate the role of these receptors in controlling insulin production and regulating glucose levels and islet cell numbers. They will also study the mechanisms by which they work and evaluate the impact of different drugs and signalling molecules that activate them in animal models of diabetes.
Potential benefit to people with diabetes
This work provides an important step in the study of GCPRs and will provide new insights into their use as potential targets for new and improved therapies for Type 2 diabetes. This work will provide a basis for further studies in humans and could have an impact on people living with diabetes in around 6-10 years. Ultimately it could lead to new drugs that would improve insulin production, reduce glucose levels and help manage the condition more effectively.