Decade of Research Results in Discovery of a Diabetes Gene

October 11th, 2011

MADISON - Ten years of meticulous mouse breeding, screening, and record-keeping have finally paid off for Alan Attie and his lab members. The University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers' efforts, published Oct. 6 in the journal PLoS Genetics, pinpointed a gene that confers diabetes susceptibility in obese mice.

They also showed that the protein coded by the gene, called tomosyn-2, acts as a brake on insulin secretion from the pancreas. "It's too early for us to know how relevant this gene will be to human diabetes," says Attie, a UW-Madison biochemistry professor, "but the concept of negative regulation is one of the most interesting things to come out of this study and that very likely applies to humans."

In a properly tuned system, insulin secreted into the blood after eating helps maintain blood sugar at a safe level. Too little insulin (as in type 1 diabetes) or insulin resistance (as in type 2 diabetes) leads to high blood sugar and diabetic symptoms. Too much insulin can drive blood glucose dangerously low and lead to coma or even death in a matter of minutes.

"You can imagine that if you're in a fasted state, you don't want to increase your insulin, so it's very important to have a brake on insulin secretion," says Angie Oler, one of the lead authors. "It needs to be stopped when you're not eating and it needs to start again when you do eat."

The group honed in on tomosyn-2 while searching for genes that contribute to diabetes susceptibility in obese animals. Why study fat mice? To read the entire Press Release on FierceBiotech, >Click Here.<