The researchers used their new sensor to look for zinc in pancreatic cells, where insulin is packaged around zinc ions. Previous research had suggested that in people with type 2 diabetes, the gene that controls the packaging process is often defective, affecting the way insulin is stored. The researchers found a high concentration of zinc ions inside certain parts of the cells where insulin is found. They hope their new sensor could help scientists look more closely at this to find out exactly how zinc is involved in diabetes.
"We can now measure very accurately the concentration of zinc in cells and we can also look at where it is inside the cell, using our molecular measuring device. This sort of information will help us to see what is going on inside different tissues, for example in the brain in Alzheimer's disease, where we also suspect zinc may be involved. We hope this new sensor will help researchers learn more about zinc-related diseases and potentially identify new ways of treating them," added Professor Rutter.
The researchers would now like to develop their new sensor to look at zinc in a living mouse model, so they can observe the movement of zinc in different tissues, for example in diabetes.
|Contact: Lucy Goodchild|
Imperial College London