Significant finding in fight against diabetes
Scientists at the Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) have, in a significant finding that can help fight diabetes, successfully deactivated a gene to regulate the functioning of beta cells in pancreas.
The team of researchers found that “knocking out” a gene in mice led to higher insulin production and better glucose tolerance. The malfunction of beta cells leads to non-production of insulin or production of ineffective insulin. In either case, the problem is manifested in the form of diabetes. The CCMB team could regulate the mass of beta cells in pancreas in the mouse model.
There are several significant medical implications of this research, the most important being the successful management and control of diabetes. The quantity of pancreatic beta cells determines whether a person is diabetic or normal.
The team, comprising Satish Kumar, D Partha Sarathi, Shalu Singh and Vijay Pratap, genetically engineered a knockout strain of mice which lacks the gene ‘Wdr13’. Knockout mice are nothing but genetically engineered rodents in which CCMB scientists, using genetic engineering technology, inactivated or ‘knocked out’ an existing gene by replacing or disrupting it with an artificial piece of DNA in the embryonic stem cells.
Team leader Dr Kumar said: “We found that without Wdr13, the mice had higher pancreatic islet mass and blood serum insulin levels. As a result of the increased islet mass, the knockout mice had better ‘glucose clearance’ as compared to their counterparts with the Wdr13 gene. In other words, knocking off the gene WDr13 will help diabetics to clear blood glucose quite effectively.”
According to the scientist, the protein could be helpful in finding a potential drug target to treat diabetes, a major health problem in the country. The team is now busy studying the health implications of the knocking off the gene WDr13 as the person ages.
It is feared that India could become the world diabetes capital in the next few years. At present, the diabetic population in the country is estimated to be around 40 million.