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Preventing diabetes damage: Zinc's effects on a kinky, two-faced cohort
Date:6/30/2011

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---In type 2 diabetes, a protein called amylin forms dense clumps that shut down insulin-producing cells, wreaking havoc on the control of blood sugar. But zinc has a knack for preventing amylin from misbehaving.

Recent research at the University of Michigan offers new details about how zinc performs this "security guard" function. The findings appear in the July 8 issue of the Journal of Molecular Biology.

Amylin is something of a two-faced character. In healthy people who have normal levels of zinc in the insulin-producing islet cells of the pancreas, amylin actually pitches in to help with blood sugar regulation, says Ayyalusamy Ramamoorthy, a U-M professor of chemistry and of biophysics in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. In fact, an analog of amylin called Symlin is used in conjunction with insulin to manage blood sugar levels in diabetics.

This good behavior on amylin's part comes about because zinc acts like a security guard at a rock concert, whose job is keeping fans from turning troublesome and destructive. In molecular terms, zinc prevents amylin---also known as Islet Amyloid Polypeptide (IAPP)---from forming harmful clumps similar to those found in Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's and various other degenerative diseases.

But in a zinc-starved cellular environment of someone with type 2 diabetes, amylin has no watchful guard to rein it in. It's free to clump together with other amylin molecules in the molecular equivalent of a gang.

The clumping ultimately leads to the formation of ribbon-like structures called fibrils, and because fibril formation has been linked to a number of human diseases, it was long assumed that fibrils themselves were toxic. But accumulating evidence now suggests that the actual culprits may be shorter snippets that assemble in the process of forming full-length fibrils. For this reason, it's important to understand the whole aggregat
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Contact: Nancy Ross-Flanigan
rossflan@umich.edu
734-647-1853
University of Michigan
Source:Eurekalert

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