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Protein discovery could improve treatment of diabetes

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
VAMP8 protein discovery could lead to better drugs for treating diabetes.

Researchers at Toronto Western Research Institute have made an important discovery that could help people with diabetes produce more insulin. In their study, they discovered VAMP8, which is a SNARE protein - soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive-factor attachment protein receptor – plays an important role in insulin release from the pancreas. Understanding the role of the protein means newer drugs can be developed to better treat both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

VAMP8 protein induces insulin release

Dr. Herbert Gaisano, a researcher at the Toronto Western Research Institute, Professor of Medicine and co-director of the Centre for Research in Diet, Digestive Tract and Disease has been able to show VAMP8 is crucial for insulin secretion because it prompts “newcomer insulin secretory granules” to fuse to plasma membranes.

Gaisano explains insulin secreting granules in the pancreas become ‘lazy’ with diabetes and they don’t want to fuse with plasma membrane, which is something that has to happen for insulin to be released into the bloodstream.

"Newcomer granules, on the other hand want to reach the plasma membrane and fuse right away – this is why VAMP8 is so important, this protein makes newcomers rush to the front and fuse, and which actually more than compensated for the lazy granules”, said Gaisano in a press release.

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The researchers also found how newer diabetes drugs that mimic glucagon-like peptide (GLP)-1 act by way of the VAMP8 protein. Examples of the drugs include Byetta and Victoza.

They also discovered when VAMP8 isn’t present, more beta cells are produced. The finding is important because more beta cells would benefit patients with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes because the disease leads to destruction of the insulin producing cells.

The researchers say understanding the importance of the protein means they can develop drugs that are more effective for treating diabetes. The study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, means scientists now understand how they can treat diabetes with medications that help the pancreas make more insulin.

UHN Media
July 26, 2012

Image credit: Morguefile