Brain may play key role in development of diabetes

ANI| Updated: Nov 07, 2013, 18:56 PM IST

Washington: A new study has shown that the brain plays a key role in glucose regulation and the development of type 2 diabetes.

Lead author Dr. Michael W. Schwartz, director of the Diabetes and Obesity Center of Excellence at the University of Washington in Seattle, and his colleagues from the Universities of Cincinnati, Michigan, and Munich, suggested that normal glucose regulation depends on a partnership between the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, the pancreatic islet cells, and neuronal circuits in the hypothalamus and other brain areas that are intimately involved in maintaining normal glucose levels.

The development of diabetes type 2, the authors argued, requires a failure of both the islet-cell system and this brain-centred system for regulating blood sugar levels.

The researchers review both animal and human studies that indicate the powerful effect this brain-centered regulatory system has on blood glucose levels independent of the action of insulin.

One such mechanism by which the system promotes glucose uptake by tissues is by stimulating what is called "glucose effectiveness." As this process accounts for almost 50 percent of normal glucose uptake, it rivals the impact of insulin-dependent mechanisms driven by the islet cells in the pancreas.

The findings lead the researchers to propose a two-system model of regulating blood sugar levels composed of the islet-cell system, which responds to a rise in glucose levels by primarily by releasing insulin, and the brain-centered system that enhances insulin-mediated glucose metabolism while also stimulating glucose effectiveness.

The study is published in the journal Nature.