The cause of diabetes during pregnancy is directly controlled by serotonin, a chemical produced by the body and normally known as a neurotransmitter, and is influenced by the amount of protein in the mother's diet early in pregnancy, according to new findings of an international team led by researchers at UCSF.
The surprise discovery could lead to simple dietary solutions and possible therapeutics for the disorder known as gestational diabetes, which if untreated, has serious implications for both mother and child. It also offers new insights into possible ways to reverse non-gestational diabetes in its early stages, the researchers say.
The findings will be reported in an upcoming issue of "Nature Medicine" and are available June 27 via Advance Online Publication at http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nm.2173.
Scientists have puzzled for decades over the fact that the onset of pregnancy causes a woman to double the number of insulin-producing islet cells in her pancreas, according to UCSF Professor Michael German, MD, who is senior author of the paper. While that increase ultimately enables the mother to control the flow of nutrients to the fetus during its final growth spurt in the third trimester, the islet cell production occurs long before those nutrients are actually needed.
Until now, no one has known what caused that change. Clearly, German said, it is not stimulated by the need for nutrients at the time it occurs, so something else had to be causing it. That has made it of great interest to researchers studying gestational diabetes, in which too little insulin is produced, as well as type I diabetes, in which islet cells are killed off. German's team set out to find out why.
Using a genomic analysis of both pregnant and non-pregnant mice, the researchers conducted a broad scan of all of the genes that were turned either on or off in the islet cells during pregnan
|Contact: Kristen Bole|
University of California - San Francisco