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Unusual suspect: Hopkins scientists find 'second fiddle' protein's role in Type 2 diabetes
Date:4/11/2013

A team of researchers at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center has found that a protein long believed to have a minor role in type 2 diabetes is, in fact, a central player in the development of the condition that affects nearly 26 million people in the United States alone and counts as one of the leading causes of heart disease, stroke and kidney, eye and nerve damage.

Working with mice, the scientists discovered that a protein called EPAC2 deemed a second-fiddle player up until now is actually an important regulator of insulin that appears to work by nudging insulin-secreting cells of the pancreas to ramp up production of the sugar-regulating hormone when the body needs it most. Until now, EPAC2 was suspected of playing a merely supporting role as a signaling molecule, but scientists remained uncertain why and how that mattered, if at all.

The results of the federally funded research, described online April 11 in the journal Diabetes, also suggest EPAC2 could provide an important new target for treatment to restore pancreatic cell function, the researchers say. Current diabetes treatments halt disease progression at best and focus on controlling symptoms and averting complications, so therapies that actually reverse the disease are badly needed.

"Drugs that precision-target failing pancreatic cells and restore or boost their function have become the holy grail of diabetes research. We believe that our finding establishes a pathway to do just that," says lead investigator Mehboob Hussain, M.D., a pediatric endocrinologist at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center and a metabolism expert at the newly formed Johns Hopkins Diabetes Institute.

The researchers say several experimental compounds known to alter EPAC2 are now lined up for testing in diabetic animals, but caution that their findings remain far from human application.

Type 2 diabetes stems from the failure of beta cells members of a family of hormo
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Contact: Ekaterina Pesheva
peshev1@jhmi.edu
410-502-9433
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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