Discovery could lead to treatment to better regulate insulin

From Iowa State University:

IMAGE: Iowa State’s Rudy Valentine is part of a team of researchers to identify a protein that impairs insulin signaling and puts diabetics at risk for other complications. view more

Credit: Wyeth Lynch, Iowa State University

AMES, Iowa – Medication can help trigger the enzyme that kick starts insulin production in the body, but the drugs don’t always work for those who are obese or diabetic, and most need to regulate their glucose and insulin levels. That’s why a recent discovery made by Rudy Valentine and a team of researchers holds so much promise.

The team has spent years studying the enzyme AMP-activated protein kinase or AMPK – a main energy sensor in the body. Valentine, an assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University, says AMPK is reduced in obese and diabetics, putting them at risk for metabolic complications, such as stroke, heart disease and some forms of cancer.

Researchers know a lot about how to activate this enzyme, but are working to understand why AMPK is being reduced, he said. By examining the molecular and cellular process, Valentine and his colleagues at Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School came up with another piece of the puzzle. They found the protein PKD1 may limit AMPK’s activity, which leads to impaired insulin signaling in the muscle, a hallmark of diabetes, Valentine said. The results were published earlier this year in The Journal of Biological Chemistry.

“It’s a pretty technical process,” he said. “There are probably a lot of different molecules that are also involved in this process, but this is definitely one of the mechanisms by which the molecule AMPK is downregulated.”

One way to help understand the process is to think of AMPK as a …

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