Protein Deficiency Linked to Type 2 Insulin Resistance

People with type 2 diabetes who use insulin to help control elevated blood sugar might be able to end their dependence on it if new research progresses.

According to the results of a new study, researchers have determinedthat the lack of neuraminidase 1 (Neu1), a protein that regulates the body’s absorption of blood sugar, plays a part in insulin resistance in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Glucose requires insulin in order to penetrate the body’s cells and provide the energy those cells need in order to function. Neu1 helps determine whether or not that particular action can occur by controlling sialic acid, a substance that when overproduced coats the surface of the cells, making it difficult for glucose to penetrate.

Essentially, not enough Neu1 combined with too much sialic acid limits the cells’ ability to absorb glucose from the blood, and results in insulin resistance.

The overproduction of sialic acid has also been linked to certain cancers, according to other studies.

“If we can remove sialic acid residues from the cell surface, this will force the insulin receptor do its job of absorbing blood sugar properly. This could give doctors an opportunity to reduce the use of insulin therapy, and might help to reduce the diabetes epidemic,” said Dr. Alexey Pshezhetsky, a researcher at the Montreal Diabetes Research Center who headed the study.

Pshezhetsky and his colleagues are now working to find ways to restore Neu1 levels in diabetics, so blood sugar can be absorbed properly.

Their research appeared in a recent issue of the American Diabetes Association journal Diabetes.

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