Australian researchers on Wednesday said they have helped shed new light on role of insulin in reducing blood sugar levels in the body, pointing to better treatment of diabetes.
The findings were published in the scientific journal Nature Communications, the international study, co-led by researchers at Australia’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.
The medical facility said in a statement that the first definitive 3D image of how insulin successfully interacts with its receptor, a “gatekeeper” for transmitting information into cells, in a process that is crucial for instructing cells to lower blood sugar levels in the body.
Understanding exactly what the process looks like could help the development of faster-acting and longer-lasting insulin therapies for the major disease, it said.
“Current insulin therapies are sub-optimal because they have been designed without this missing piece of the puzzle,’’ said the institute’s associate professor Mike Lawrence.
“We knew that insulin underwent a physical change that signalled its successful connection with its receptor on the cell surface.
“But we had never before seen the detailed changes that occurred in the receptor itself, confirming that insulin had successfully delivered the message for the cell to take up sugar from the blood,” he added.
Diabetes is a complex medical condition that includes difficulty in maintaining healthy glucose levels in the blood.
People with diabetes no longer produce, or are unable to produce sufficient amounts of insulin which is essential for the conversion of glucose into energy.
Nearly 300 Australians develop diabetes every day, or one person every five minutes, according to the Diabetes Australia nonprofit health group.
“Going forward, pharmaceutical companies will be able to use our data as a ‘blueprint’ for designing therapies that optimize the body’s uptake of insulin,” said Lawrence.
“It is phenomenal to have achieved results that will ultimately benefit patients with the development of more effective therapies, particularly for those whose lives are dependent on a daily injection of insulin,” he added.