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New Enzyme Blocks Pancreatic Insulin Production

Scientists from Sydney, Australia, recently identified and mapped the structure of an enzyme that cuts down insulin production in diabetes. Called protein kinase C epsilon (PKCe), it is regulated by fat. For that reason, it may be the missing link that relates obesity to type 2 diabetes.

The researchers, based in Sydney, Australia, genetically engineered some mice so that they didn’t have any PKCe. Even after the mice were fattened up with a high fat diet that would otherwise have made them diabetic, they didn’t develop type 2 diabetes. They did become insulin resistant, but their insulin production, uninhibited by PKCe, kept rolling along nicely.

The researchers believe that by blocking the action of PKCe, they might be able to restore the pancreas’s insulin production back to normal. A drug that inhibited PKCe could result in greater insulin production by the pancreas only when it was needed, such as when glucose levels rise after a meal. As such, it would be a big improvement over the current drugs that force the beta cells to pump out more insulin willy-nilly, no matter what the circumstances. Such a drug, however, is a rather distant dream at the moment, probably ten years off (as usual).

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Sources: Cell Metabolism, October 2007; ScienceAlert; Bloomberg.com

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