(Philadelphia, PA) A newly completed picture of how fruitflies control their blood sugar will inform researchers and clinicians about the basics of metabolism and how it relates to disease. Eric Rulifson, PhD, Assistant Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and his colleague Seung Kim, PhD, from Stanford University, discovered an interconnected network of cells that tell the fly to take up or release sugar, as needed.
Two years ago Rulifson and Kim showed that a group of cells in the brain of the fly make insulin, which parallels the role of beta cells in humans. Now, in the September 16 issue of Nature, the researchers describe cells that produce a glucagon-like hormone, which are akin to alpha cells in mammals. These two cell types within the pancreatic islets are the main cellular sensors of blood-sugar levels. Together the fly's insulin- and glucagon-producing cells could be seen to represent a primitive pancreatic islet.
After eating food, insulin notifies muscles, fat cells, and the liver to take up excess sugar in the blood and store it as glycogen. Conversely, when the sugar level in blood dips between snacks, glucagon notifies the muscles and liver to break down stored energy like glycogen and fat to release as glucose. However, when this finely tuned system goes wrong, all-too-familiar diseases arise: diabetes when there is too much sugar; hypoglycemia when there is too little.
Because of the unexpected similarities between the insect and human pancreas, Rulifson explains that now the fly can serve as a simple model of how sugar is regulated at a very basic level. "At this point investigators would like to understand how this ancient mechanism for cells that sense the nutrient and energy status of an animal can adjust an animal's growth and metabolic state," he says. "Now we have a model for that."
Coaxing stem cells to become pancreatic islet cells forPage: 1 2 Related biology news :1
Contact: Karen Kreeger
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
. A highly conserved mechanism used during the development of zebrafish and fruitfly eyes points to a common evolutionary origin of animal eyes2
. Molecular motor implicated in tissue remodeling3
. Computer models expose humans as main cause of caribou decline4
. New model can aid in understanding immune system diseases5
. Physics gravity model applicable to disease spread6
. BioMed Central to consult funders and librarians over Open Access payment model7
. Study reveals surprising remodeling property of gene regulation process8
. Gene therapy reaches muscles throughout the body and reverses muscular dystrophy in animal model9
. Genetic model for devastating form of paraplegia suggests new treatments10
. New model explains why costly insect outbreaks hard to predict11
. A genetic model for hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP) disease