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Protein power: Researchers trigger insulin production in diabetic mice
Date:1/8/2008

GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- If the human body were a stage, then proteins would rank among the lead actors in the play we call Life.

These large biological molecules hold many starring roles, and their lines are dictated by information encoded in our genes. They are production powerhouses, regulating the basic processes of living and controlling countless functions. Many are enzymes that produce or use energy. Others regulate genes.

Researchers are increasingly studying proteins as potential therapies for a variety of dread diseases because they can influence cell behavior by fueling or dampening certain molecular signals.

Now University of Florida researchers have coaxed liver and pancreatic cells within diabetic mice into churning out insulin by injecting the animals with a naturally occurring protein called Pdx1, opening up a new research avenue that someday could lead to safer treatments for type 1 diabetes. Pdx1 activates the genes controlling the development of the pancreas cells that make and release insulin to maintain safe levels of glucose in the body. The UF research teams novel approach is described online in the journal Diabetes.

Pdx1 is so special because it possesses a unique amino acid sequence that acts as a sort of molecular passport, allowing it to pass freely into cells, enter the nucleus and activate insulin production and release, said lead scientist Dr. Li-Jun Yang, an associate professor of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine at UFs College of Medicine.

Earlier research has shown that inserting the Pdx1 gene into liver or pancreas cells can induce insulin production, but most gene therapy methods use viruses to introduce a piece of genetically engineered DNA into cells. The disadvantage of such approaches is that researchers can never be certain the viruses are entirely harmless, Yang said.

The idea with protein therapy is that eventually a persons own cells could be reprogramme
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Contact: Melanie Fridl Ross
ufcardiac@aol.com
352-273-5810
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

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