Salk scientists find could advance diabetes drugs

City News Service

Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have found out how a hormone in the pancreas turns on molecular switches to increase production of insulin, according to findings published Monday that could lead to new medications for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

The hormone, GLP-1, helps keep islet cells,’' which produce insulin in the pancreas, strong and healthy, according to the researchers. They believe the cells can be manipulated to treat or even prevent diabetes.

The truth is that as we grow older, these islet cells tend to wear out,” said Marc Montminy, a professor in the Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology at Salk.The genetic switches just don’t get turned on as efficiently as they did when we were younger, even if we don’t develop diabetes.’'

Montminy, lead author of an article on the study appearing in Monday’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, likened the situation to opening and closing an automatic garage door and wearing out the battery. He said ways need to be found to continually refresh the battery.

The discovery could also help patients who receive organ implants, because many of them subsequently develop diabetes, according to Montminy.