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Protecting against fat in the pancreas

Project summary

Establishing a zebrafish model to study genetic resistance to pancreatic steatosis

Dr Minchin would like to understand what influence your genetic material has on fat accumulation in the pancreas and whether it affects the susceptibility to Type 2 diabetes. He will be using zebrafish as a laboratory model to study a gene called Stabilin 1, which might have a protective function. This research might lead to the development of new drugs to protect against Type 2 diabetes.

Background to research

Fat builds up in the pancreas as people age and gain body weight, and people with a fatty pancreas are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. Earlier research has shown that this fatty build-up in the pancreas might be toxic and can cause insulin-producing beta cells to die. Some genetic conditions, like cystic fibrosis, may lead to this build-up of fat, but generally we don’t know which factors cause the increased accumulation of fat in the pancreas. Dr Minchin has found a gene called Stabilin 1, which might be able to protect against fat building up in the pancreas. Now, he would like to study this gene further and figure out what role it plays in fat accumulation and the regeneration of the pancreas.

Research aims

Dr Minchin wants to understand why fat accumulates in the pancreas and whether this can be prevented. He will be using zebrafish to investigate different factors that might have an effect on this fat accumulation, and it’s possible to look directly at the fat in the pancreas of zebrafish using a microscope. He will work out whether the gene called Stabilin 1 can reduce or prevent fat accumulation in the pancreas and whether it can help to regenerate the pancreas as well.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

At Diabetes UK we are working to find better ways to prevent Type 2 diabetes. There are currently no treatments to protect against fatty build-up in the pancreas or regenerate the pancreas once it’s damaged. This project will help us to understand the role that Stabilin 1 plays in protecting against fat accumulation, and will inform future research to find new drugs which can act in a similar way.

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