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Hopkins researchers discover potential new approach to treating diabetes

Scientists at Johns Hopkins have uncovered a surprising and novel way of lowering blood sugar levels in mice by manipulating the release of sugar by liver cells. The results, published in the June issue of Cell Metabolism, have implications for treating conditions like diabetes.

The discovery by researchers in Hopkins' Institute of Basic Biomedical Sciences and McKusick-Nathans Institute for Genetic Medicine reveals that a protein called GCN5 is critical for controlling a domino-like cascade of molecular events that lead to the release of sugar from liver cells into the bloodstream. Understanding the role of GCN5 in maintaining blood sugar levels is leading to a clearer picture of how the body uses sugar and other nutrients to make, store and spend energy.

"Understanding the ways that energy production and use are controlled is crucial to developing new drugs and therapies," says the report's senior author, Pere Puigserver, Ph.D., an assistant professor of cell biology at Hopkins.

The inability to properly regulate blood sugar levels leads to conditions like obesity and diabetes. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes cause blood sugar levels to stay too high, which can lead to complications like blindness, kidney failure and nerve damage.

"Diabetes is a really big problem, even when patients are given insulin and stay on strict diets," says Carles Lerin, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in cell biology at Hopkins and an author of the report. "In the absence of a cure for the disease, we are really trying to focus on finding better treatment because currently available methods just don't work that efficiently," he says.

The body keeps blood sugar known as glucose within a narrow range. Extra glucose floating through the bloodstream, which is common after eating a meal, is captured and kept in the liver. When blood glucose runs low, the liver releases its stores back into the bloodstream. When those reserves are tapped out, liver ce
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Contact: Audrey Huang
audrey@jhmi.edu
410-614-5105
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
7-Jun-2006


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