Researchers at Salk Institute have found a molecular switch that controls liver glucose production. This research may show a new avenue for treating insulin resistant type-2 diabetes.

According to the scientists, these two molecules when controlled could potentially offer an opportunity to control the blood sugar levels in diabetic patients.

A lot of lives and literally billions of dollars can be saved annually if the therapy that involves targeting the molecular site is developed. Diabetes is growing fast throughout the world. Once considered as the ‘curse or affluence’ it is now spreading to developing countries as well. China now leads in the number of people that have type- 2 diabetes followed by India. Experts say that growing economy in these countries has led to people buying more processed food. An unhealthy diet coupled with a lack of physical exercise has led to an increase in the number diabetic patients.

WHO estimates that more than 346 million people worldwide have diabetes. According to Centre of Disease Control and Prevention an estimated 25.8 million people in the United States (8.3% of the population) have diabetes. By 2050, 1 in 3 US adults will have diabetes.

Each year the US economy pumps in $117 billion dollars in the treatment of diabetes.

Type-2 diabetes accounts for nearly 90 to 95 % of diabetes cases. This type of diabetes is generally associated with lifestyle like poor physical activity, obesity, unhealthy diet and hereditary disorders. Making changes in lifestyles can control type-2 diabetes and in some cases delay or even prevent it. Unlike diabetes-type-1, insulin or oral medication is not required. But in some cases, doctors prescribe some medications to control the sugar level.

In healthy people hormones like insulin and glucagon work in sync to control the blood sugar levels. But, in diabetic patients, this balance is overthrown and glucose production increases. Over a period of time this excess glucose in the blood causes many complications like kidney failure, heart diseases and even blindness. Risk of certain cancers also increases with diabetes.

The new findings in the Nature study identify a rely system that explains how glucagon activates the CRTC2 switch during fasting, and how that system is compromised during diabetes.

“If you control these switches, you can control the production of glucose, which is really the heart of the problem of type2 diabetes,” says Professor Mark Montminy, head of Salk Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology.

The system that controls the blood sugar in the body is a complex one. Researchers have been trying to understand this process for many years. An insight into the molecular level and with the scope of controlling the molecules could give rise to new dimensions in the treatment of diabetes which as of now depends only on oral medications and insulin injections.

The scientists are optimistic that the new strategy of controlling the glucose production at molecular level might work on humans. 

The study was published on April 8 in Nature.