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Science: Protein deposits are a cause of type 2 diabetes


How do protein deposits in the pancreas affect type 2 diabetes?
Researchers have now found that protein deposits in the pancreas could lead to a better understanding of type 2 diabetes. The protein called amyloid polypeptide (IAPP) is deposited in the pancreas of people with type 2 diabetes. So far it is unclear whether these deposits cause the disease or whether they only appear after the disease.

The doctors from McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center have now taken an important step in understanding type 2 diabetes. Certain protein deposits appear to occur in almost all patients with type 2 diabetes. In animal studies in mice, it was observed that when mice were given amyloid polypeptide, the animals subsequently developed symptoms of type 2 diabetes. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "The Journal of Experimental Medicine".

Mice with amyloid polypeptide developed symptoms of type 2 diabetes
The scientists injected the amyloid polypeptide protein into mice. They wanted to better understand the role of the protein in type 2 diabetes. Mice with the protein developed symptoms of type 2 diabetes, such as the death of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas and high blood sugar. The study team also injected the protein into the pancreatic tissue from healthy human donors.

Do the deposits lead to type 2 diabetes?
Almost all patients with type 2 diabetes have these protein deposits. So far, the experts do not know whether the disease leads to deposits or vice versa. I think amyloid polypeptide is really important for the development of type 2 diabetes, that's why we did the animal studies, explains author Professor Claudio Soto.

How does type 2 diabetes develop?
Type 2 diabetes begins with insulin resistance. Insulin helps the body bring sugar from food into the body's cells. So the sugar can be used as energy. If people are insulin-resistant, their bodies won't be able to use the sugar from food efficiently, the scientists explain. To compensate for this, the beta cells in the pancreas produce more insulin. At some point, the pancreas can no longer produce enough insulin, beta cells die and type 2 diabetes develops.

For example, the amyloid polypeptide could be involved in type 2 diabetes
How could amyloid polypeptide be involved in type 2 diabetes? When insulin production is increased, the amyloid polypeptide also increases. The excess protein then collects in the pancreas, Professor Soto speculates.

Protein misfolds can cause large deposits and damage to beta cells
A small number of so-called protein misfolds could then serve as a type of seed that promotes the formation of further protein misfolds. Finally, large deposits lead to damage to the beta cells, the doctors explain. This process also occurs in a similar form in Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. In addition, these protein deposits are similar to the deposits in Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, the scientists further explain.

Can protein seeds be passed on to other people?
It could even be possible that so-called protein seeds are transferred from one person to another, Professor Soto speculates. The transmission is not comparable to a cold or flu. It would be more likely that the transfer would be through an organ transplant or a blood transfusion, the expert added.

Results could lead to earlier diagnosis of type 2 diabetes
If the study is validated by other studies, the information could be used to prevent type 2 diabetes, explains Professor Soto. The information could also lead to an earlier diagnosis of the disease. Scientists could develop new types of treatment to remove or at least reduce the build-up, the author adds.

More research is needed
Many critics explain that there is currently no clinical evidence for the contagious effects of type 2 diabetes. Further research is now needed to determine the role of these amyloid deposits in the beta cells. A review of the current results by other study teams is also required. (as)

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