Researchers uncover signaling pathway that controls insulin production

In a study that could have major implications for the treatment of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, a team of researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have decoded the system used by the body to signal pancreatic beta cells when it is time to produce more insulin.

In type 1 diabetes, these beta cells produce little or no insulin, which is critical for maintaining blood sugar levels. Individuals with type 2 diabetes have become resistant to the levels of insulin their body produces. However, by taking advantage of this newly discovered signaling pathway, scientists may be able to force beta cells to produce more insulin.

"Pancreatic beta cells are influenced by hormonal, metabolic and electrical signals and something must be integrating all of these inputs to determine how to generate the cell's output," said Jin Zhang, an associate professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences at Johns Hopkins University. "We have discovered a tunable circuit that may control the behavior of the cell."

While any type 1 or type 2 diabetes treatment based off of these findings is likely a long way off, Zhang added that he hopes more researchers will begin looking more closely at the molecular pathway he and his team discovered.