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A New Gene to Contribute in Insulin Metabolism

blood sugar level. Via a complicated sequence of reactions it ensures that muscles and other organs absorb blood sugar. What is more, however, the cascade of insulin signals also determines size and number of the body cells during growth. Apparently, 'Titch' plays a key role in this shower of signals. 'The fruit fly larvae increase their weight 200-fold in the first three days after hatching,' Michael Hoch explains. 'If their 'Titch gene' has mutated, they grow visibly more slowly.' A series of additional observations support the thesis that 'Titch' is extremely important for the metabolism of insulin in drosophila. If there were a cytohesin with a similar function in mammals, this would, for instance, be of great interest for research into diabetes.

In parallel to Michael Hoch's research, Professor Michael Famulok produced an active substance that inhibits cytohesins, known as SecinH3. 'We fed this inhibitor to mice,' he explains. Unlike fruit flies, the rodents do not have just one cytohesin at their disposal, they have four. Professor Famulok wanted to find out whether they play a similar crucial role in the insulin metabolism of mice as 'Titch' does in the fly and discovered the following: 'Liver cells of the animals treated with SecinH3 reacted to insulin not nearly as strongly as they should.' Medical people know this effect: this insulin resistance is regarded as a warning signal for the onset of Type II diabetes.

Six million people suffer from this type of diabetes in Germany alone. It is triggered by an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise, and the tendency is rising. Michael Famulok now thinks new drugs are on the cards. 'There is a class of switch molecules which are activated by cytohesins. This activation is apparently necessary to pass on the signals. If we manage to stimulate the switch molecules with a suitable active substance, we might possibly be able to thereby reverse the resistance to insulin.' A new method described by Mich
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