WELLINGTON, Feb. 4 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand scientists said Monday they had found a key factor in the cause of diabetes, which could lead to new methods to curb the global epidemic of the disease.
Researchers at the University of Auckland found a new mechanism for how glucose stimulates insulin secretion that could explain how a gene that makes people more susceptible to diabetes called TCF7L2 actually contributes to the disease.
"It has long been known that insulin is secreted from beta- cells in the pancreas in response to rising blood glucose levels, and that the insulin in turn controls glucose levels. However, the mechanisms controlling insulin secretion have not been fully understood," team leader Professor Peter Shepherd said in a statement.
The researchers discovered a signaling molecule called cyclic- AMP that acted to stabilize beta-catenin, a protein with an important role in regulating beta-cell function, including the release of insulin in response to glucose.
"This is important as type-2 diabetes is increasing to epidemic proportions worldwide. It is caused by defective insulin release from beta-cells, and the resulting failure to control blood glucose levels. In order to understand the disease it's important to learn about the mechanism that control insulin secretion," lead researcher Dr Emmanuelle Cognard said in the statement.
The discovery could explain how TCF7L2 could reduce the effect of beta-catenin on insulin secretion and lead to new ways to design new drugs to treat type-2 diabetes.