Cell discovery sheds light on insulin breakdown and type 2 diabetes

A new discovery regarding insulin-producing cells could help determine future treatments for type 2 diabetes, Swedish researchers have said.

A team from the Sahlgrenska Academy looked at how genetic changes in the cells affected type 2 diabetes. They found a gene called SOX5 has a huge impact on the condition.

Anders Rosengren, associate professor from the Department of Neuroscience and Physiology and the Wallenberg Centre for Molecular and Translational Medicine at the University of Gothenburg, said: “If you experimentally suppress and deactivate SOX5, the function of the 168 genes deteriorate and the cells decrease in maturity.”

Rosengren’s team then found increasing levels of SOX5 also led to the 168 genes increasing, resulting in the normalization of insulin delivery.

During the trial the researchers studied 124 tissue samples, of which 41 were from people with type 2 diabetes. They were able to monitor genetic changes in the cells and how it affected the condition.

Rosengren compared their findings to air travel to make the results easier to understand. He said: “All airports are connected in a large network, but a disruption at a hub like Frankfurt Airport is much more serious than a disruption in Gothenburg. We searched out the hubs, i.e. the key genes, and the major links. Of almost 3,000 genes that were changed in diabetes, 168 could be described as Frankfurt genes. It was these we focused on.”

Increasing insulin resistance and reduced ability to produce insulin are both factors that contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes.

Rosengren added: “If you can affect things at the cellular level and restore the body’s own rapid regulation, you can more accurately adjust blood sugar compared to what is possible with insulin injections.”

Researchers now think the latest findings will form the basis of new medication used to reestablish the maturity of insulin-producing cells. However, they reiterated that a healthy lifestyle is also important to maintain in a bid to prevent or control type 2 diabetes. Previous work has shown that SOX5 levels lower if a less healthy diet is followed along with little exercise.

The findings appear online in the journal Nature.


Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common long-term health conditions
Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common long-term health conditions

Type 2 diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder that results in hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels) due to the body:

  • Being ineffective at using the insulin it has produced; also known as insulin resistance and/or
  • Being unable to produce enough insulin

Type 2 diabetes is characterised by the body being unable to metabolise glucose (a simple sugar). This leads to high levels of blood glucose which over time may damage the organs of the body.

From this, it can be understood that for someone with diabetes something that is food for ordinary people can become a sort of metabolic poison.

This is why people with diabetes are advised to avoid sources of dietary sugar.

The good news is for very many people with type 2 diabetes this is all they have to do to stay well. If you can keep your blood sugar lower by avoiding dietary sugar, likely you will never need long-term medication.

Type 2 diabetes was formerly known as non-insulin-dependent or adult-onset diabetes due to its occurrence mainly in people over 40. However, type 2 diabetes is now becoming more common in young adults, teens and children and accounts for roughly 90% of all diabetes cases worldwide.

How serious is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a serious medical condition that often requires the use of anti-diabetic medication, or insulin to keep blood sugar levels under control. However, the development of type 2 diabetes and its side effects (complications) can be prevented if detected and treated at an early stage.

In recent years, it has become apparent that many people with type 2 diabetes are able to reverse diabetes through methods including low-carb diets, very-low-calorie diets and exercise.

For guidance on healthy eating to improve blood glucose levels and weight and to fight back against insulin resistance, join the Low Carb Program.

Following pre-diabetes or metabolic disorder, type 2 diabetes can…