ANN ARBOR, Mich. Picture a pretzel factory production line, with conveyer belts carrying the dough, formed into unbaked pretzels, down to the oven to be cooked.
Now imagine what would happen if pretzel dough started to overflow the mixer and oozed as a blob onto the conveyor, misshapen, and sticking fast to the dough of the other fully formed, unbaked pretzels. The result: a mess. And if that mess could no longer be conveyed into the oven, the backup of messy dough in the system would get worse and worse, and might eventually shut down the whole factory.
Thats essentially what might be happening in a much smaller kind of factory: the cells that make insulin in the body of people with diabetes.
According to new findings by a team from the University of Michigan Medical School, those tiny factories may shut down because of glitches in the production of a molecule called proinsulin the precursor, or dough, out of which insulin is made.
The insulin factories are called beta cells, and they normally churn out large quantities of insulin within the pancreas. This insulin supply can be released into the bloodstream as needed, to help the body turn sugars from food into energy for cells.
But in people with diabetes, the beta cell factories dont keep up with the demand for insulin, and sugar builds up in the blood, wreaking havoc on nerves, blood vessel walls and kidneys. And just like a factory that cant fill a growing number of orders for a hot product, the situation just keeps getting worse and the diabetes progresses.
Scientists have been working to understand why insulin production falters in people with diabetes, and the U-M team has focused on the production and folding of the proinsulin molecule deep within the beta cell. Using a tag that can make proinsulin glow green, they have now found a way to watch proinsulin being made within animal cells, and folded into a shape that can then be turned into in
|Contact: Kara Gavin|
University of Michigan Health System