People with diabetes who use insulin to control their blood sugar are prone to experience, hypoglycemia a dangerous condition when blood sugar levels fall too low.
Now, researchers at Saint Louis University School of Medicine have recently discovered protein in the pancreas, called neuronostatin that could lead to insight to prevent the condition, which could be deadly.
In previous work, their work has shown that the protein protects against hypoglycemia by causing the pancreas to release less insulin and make more glucagon, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels.
What is Hypoglycemia?
For people with diabetes, taking too much insulin can lead to low blood sugar, causing dizziness and sleepiness. Symptoms may progress to confusion, seizures, and loss of consciousness if blood sugar levels continue to fall.
Severe hypoglycemia can also increase the risk of more hypoglycemic episodes in the following days and leads to a decreased awareness of the symptoms that typically allow a person to sense falling blood sugar levels.
“There are very few options for preventing hypoglycemia or treating hypoglycemia unawareness other than avoiding low blood sugar as much as possible,” says Stephen Grote, a doctoral student at Saint Louis University School of Medicine.
“Understanding what neuronostatin does and how it works will provide valuable information for preventing hypoglycemia and provide more complete knowledge into how the pancreas manages blood sugar normally,” he adds.
What are the Findings?
In a new rat study, the researchers observed that neuronostatin injections caused an increase in blood sugar. They also examined human pancreas tissue and found that it released more neuronostatin when blood sugar levels were low and that neuronostatin increased even more with glucagon treatment.
The new research points to neuronostatin as a potential therapeutic target for the treatment and prevention of hypoglycemia in people with diabetes.
“Neuronostatin is a truly novel factor, and everything we find about it pushes our knowledge of its therapeutic potential just a bit further,” says Grote. “We believe that studying neuronostatin could ultimately reveal a way to use it to help prevent and reverse vicious cycles of hypoglycemia by helping the body respond appropriately to the low blood sugar with more glucagon.”
Severe hypoglycemia can increase the risk of more hypoglycemic episodes in the following days and leads to a decreased awareness of the symptoms that typically allow a person to sense falling blood sugar levels. Image Courtesy of Stephen Grote.
The Way Forward
The researchers are now working to better understand how neuronostatin affects glucagon and insulin release from human islets and how the body regulates neuronostatin secretion.
They are also using experimental approaches that disrupt the body’s response to low blood sugar to investigate how this affects neuronostatin levels and to determine if neuronostatin can be used to better manage low blood sugar.
The research will be present the research at the American Physiological Society’s annual meeting during the 2019 Experimental Biology meeting to be held April 6-9 in Orlando, Fla.
New hope for preventing dangerous diabetes complication. (2019, April 8). EurekAlert! Retrieved: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-04/eb-nhf032819.php