Washington: A protein long believed to have a minor role in type 2 diabetes is, in fact, a central player in the development of the condition, American researchers say.
Working with mice, a team of researchers at the Johns Hopkins Children`s Center discovered that a protein called EPAC2 - deemed a second-fiddle player up until now - is actually an important regulator of insulin that appears to work by nudging insulin-secreting cells of the pancreas to ramp up production of the sugar-regulating hormone when the body needs it most.
Until now, EPAC2 was suspected of playing a merely supporting role as a signaling molecule, but scientists remained uncertain why and how that mattered, if at all.
The results of the federally funded research also suggest EPAC2 could provide an important new target for treatment to restore pancreatic cell function, the researchers say.
Current diabetes treatments halt disease progression at best and focus on controlling symptoms and averting complications, so therapies that actually reverse the disease are badly needed.
"Drugs that precision-target failing pancreatic cells and restore or boost their function have become the holy grail of diabetes research. We believe that our finding establishes a pathway to do just that," says lead investigator Mehboob Hussain, M.D., a pediatric endocrinologist at the Johns Hopkins Children`s Center and a metabolism expert at the newly formed Johns Hopkins Diabetes Institute.
The study was recently published in the journal Diabetes.