Protein switches on genes that are critical for healthy beta cell development.

Scientists from Imperial College London and an INSERM Unit at Necker Hospital, Paris, revealed that glucose plays a key role in enabling healthy beta cells, which secrete insulin, to develop in the pancreas of an embryo.

The study found that glucose prompts a gene called Neurogenin3 to switch on another gene known as NeuroD that is crucial for the normal development of beta cells. If glucose levels are low this gene is not switched on. The research was conducted on tissues cultured from the primordial pancreas of young rat embryos.

“We hope that by demonstrating that an extrinsic factor like glucose can regulate the way in which insulin secreting cells develop, we may eventually be able to reverse defects in the growth of these cells in patients with diabetes,” comments Guy Rutter, Ph.D., from the division of medicine at Imperial College and one of the authors of the paper.

This study is published in the 18 May issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

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