Way to Study Regulation of Glucose Through Eye

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Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden have discovered an innovative way to study the regulation of glucose in the body: the transfer of vital insulin-producing cells of the pancreas in the eye. The authors anticipate that these results, published in ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’, have a significant impact about research on diabetes.

The endocrine part of the pancreas, the islets of Langerhans, produces and secretes insulin, the hormone that regulates sugar levels in blood. After a meal, hormone is released into blood in an amount which is in direct proportion to diet, so that blood insulin levels vary from one food to another, and between individuals. In the case of conditions such as obesity, you need large amounts of insulin to compensate for high food consumption and insensitivity to hormone.

Langerhans islets try to adapt to this condition by increasing the number of insulin-producing beta cells and/or modulation of individual insulin secretion in response to sugar intake. This plasticity is essential for maintaining normal levels of blood sugar and its dysfunction leads to diabetes, a serious disease that has reached pandemic proportions.

The biggest obstacle to the study of the exact mechanisms of the islets of Langerhans and how they adapt to the individual conditions is its relative inaccessibility. Now, however, the Swedish researchers have found a new way of studying the insulin-producing beta cells by transfer of the islets of Langerhans in eye.

‘We have achieved optically accessible cells by grafting a small number of islands reporters in the eyes of mice, allowing us to control the activity of the pancreas with just eye contact,’ explains the director of the Center Rolf Luft Research for Diabetes and Endocrinology, Per-Olof Berggren, Professor of Experimental Endocrinology in the Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery Karolinska Institute.

According to this expert, this methodology allows us to study the insulin-producing beta cells in detail in a way that was not possible before. Thus, the eye can be used as a kind of reporter playback pancreas activity, allowing the pancreas status readings under different conditions in health and disease.

‘Islets of Langerhans can be viewed repeatedly over a period of several months and our work shows that during this time, functional and morphological changes that occur in them are identical to those that occur in the pancreas,’ says the first author of this analysis, Dr. Erwin Ilegems, Rolf Luft Center researcher.

Using the new monitoring and drug treatment, the researchers reduced food intake in obese mouse models, therefore, stopped the huge growth of the beta cell population, which means you can individually adjust the dose drug.

‘We will also use the system to identify new drug substances that regulate plasticity and beta cell function,’ adds Professor Berggren, adding that in the future, you can also design a similar use of these islets reporters in human beings in order to find unique custom treatments, measure the effects of personal medication or diagnose problems of the pancreatic islets.

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