Study reveals molecule behind insulin release

A scientific discovery involving the mechanism behind how the pancreas releases insulin could lead to the development of new treatments for type 2 diabetes.

Swedish researchers using high-specification microscopes have identified the protein central to the process of insulin secretion, where the body releases the hormone in response to blood glucose levels.

The breakthrough could influence drugmakers to create better therapies which prompt the pancreas to secrete more insulin, than are currently available.

Whilst there are drugs such as sulphonylureas and glinides which directly stimulate insulin release, they can be too aggressive and this can result in hypoglycemia.

Up until now, the process of how the pancreases releases insulin has not been so clearly understood.

A study team at Uppsala University’s Department of Medical Cell Biology has delved into the process, looking in-depth at one of the key molecular players known as cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP).

Previous research had found that these molecules were created through insulin-producing beta cells when people eat food and that they facilitate the release of insulin by binding to a protein called Epac2A.

But the Swedish researchers have used sophisticated microscopy techniques to reveal a cycle that generates the transportation of Epac2A to the locations where insulin is launched from. The study also discovered that the volume of Epac2A controls the quantity of insulin released.

The findings showed there was “significantly less accumulation of Epac2A” in people with type 2 diabetes compared with those without the condition.

The researchers said: “We conclude that Epac2A controls secretory granule release by binding to the exocytosis machinery, an effect that is enhanced by prior cAMP-dependent accumulation of the protein at the plasma membrane.”

The study was published in the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes journal.


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 potentially be avoided through diet and exercise.

What causes type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the hormone insulin is not used effectively by the cells in your body. Insulin is needed for cells to take in glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream and convert it into energy.

Ineffective use of insulin results in the body becoming resistant to insulin – also known as insulin resistance, which in turn causes blood sugar levels to rise (hyperglycemia).

In advanced stages, type 2 diabetes may cause damage to insulin producing cells in the pancreas, leading to insufficient insulin production for your body’s needs.

Type 2 diabetes risk factors

A number of factors can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

These include:

The likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes is also influenced by genetics and environmental factors. For example, research shows that:

  • If either parent has type 2 diabetes, the risk of inheritance…