12/10/2009 An interdisciplinary research team led by Professor Frans Schuit of the KULeuven has investigated a gene that plays an important role in diabetes or diabetes. The results of the study shed new light on the development of diabetes.

Diabetes (diabetes) is due to reduced production or poor functioning of the hormone insulin. This hormone is produced by beta cells in the pancreas and secreted into the bloodstream when we eat this way the blood sugar remains within normal limits.

Recently, a new link between zinc transporter 8 (ZnT8) and the development of diabetes. Previously been a hereditary factor in the ZnT8 gene set but geneticists did not know what was the link between the mutation and the development of diabetes. Research by Katleen Lemaire and colleagues gene expression in the Leuven group led by Professor Frans Schuit, shows that mice ZnT8 no longer able to make an undergo dramatic change in the storage of their insulin. Insulin is normally stored in the pancreas in crystal form, but in the absence of the protein is insulin ZnT8 in a water soluble form so.

The biggest surprise of the study (which was recently published in the scientific journal PNAS) was that, despite the absence of insulin crystals, the lab animals developed diabetes. When the “crystal free” mice, however, a high-fat diet were imposed, then their higher sugar levels than those of normal mice. What’s more, mice lacking the protein ZnT8 have developed diabetes under these circumstances.

Professor Schuit, the results of the investigation that the operation of the hereditary ZnT8 gene, together with the influence of a high-fat diet, the function of the beta-cells is determined. Precisely this interaction between genes and diet seems to play a role in the most common form of diabetes (type 2) in humans. The next step in the research is to precisely identify when and how the high-fat diet the effect genetic mutation expressed late.

For more information, contact Professor Frans Schuit, (t) 016 34 72 27 frans.schuit @ med.kuleuven.be