Researchers at Johns Hopkins' Department of Biology have discovered that a protein called 'nerve growth factor' (NGF) found in the nervous system also triggers the release of insulin in the pancreas. Jillian Kitchener reports.
These mice have led researchers to a new discovery… that could one day lead to early treatment of Type 2 diabetes. Johns Hopkins biologists found that a protein that helps neurons grow, called 'nerve growth factor' or NGF for short, has a second job. It triggers the release of insulin in the pancreas. Associate Professor of Biology, Rejji Kuruvilla, explains: (SOUNDBITE) (English) JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF BIOLOGY, REJJI KURUVILLA, SAYING: "…How glucose is sensed by the beta-cells to remodel the skeletal barrier was not known. And what we found was the NGF receptor is involved, is the link between glucose and remodeling of the cytoskeletal barrier to secrete insulin." The study, led by graduate student Jessica Houtz, tested glucose levels in mice after genetically manipulating the function of the NGF receptor. It showed that without the NGF receptor, beta-cells confronted with high glucose were unable to secrete insulin in adequate amounts. Kuruvilla says targeting beta-cell function early-on could help prevent Type 2 Diabetes. (SOUNDBITE) (English) JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF BIOLOGY, REJJI KURUVILLA, SAYING: "… By the time a patient is diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, they have already lost 80 percent of beta-cell function. So I think it's absolutely critical to figure out the pathways that are important for beta cell function so that we can manipulate these pathways for early intervention of the disease as opposed to managing a chronic disease after." The team's hopeful that further studies of NGF in humans could one day lead to the development of drugs that affect receptor activity. In turn, treating pre-diabetes.