In order to manage blood glucose levels, pancreatic beta cells release insulin in pulses. These bursts of insulin help the body to regulate and stabilize blood sugar. In individuals with type 1 diabetes, however, the pancreatic beta cells that normally secrete insulin are mistakenly destroyed by the body. This leaves the body unable to effectively regulate blood sugar on its own. Understanding the interaction between insulin-producing beta cells and other processes in the body may help researchers improve treatment and prevention options when it comes to diabetes.
A recent study examined the different roles gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA) plays in cell activity. In the brain, GABA is released from nerve cell vesicles each time a nerve impulse occurs. The GABA prepares cells for subsequent impulses by working as a calming agent. Researchers previously believed that this process worked in much the same way in the pancreas.
However, in the pancreas, GABA is evenly distributed throughout the beta cells rather than contained within small vesicles, and it is transported via the volume regulatory anion channel. This is the same channel that helps stabilize pressure inside and outside of cells so that they maintain their shape. Furthermore, research showed that GABA is released in a similar pattern and frequency as pulsatile in vivo insulin secretion. Just like in the brain, GABA plays an integral role in preparing and calming cells to make them more receptive to subsequent insulin pulses.
Scientists are interested in learning more about how GABA signaling can support the regulation of insulin secretion and potentially protect cells from autoimmune activity. This opens new doors for biomedical research that has the ability to impact diabetes care.
It is encouraging to see different types of researchers all coming together and learning from and building upon one another’s work in order to advance understanding, prevention, and treatment of various diseases, including diabetes.
Diabetes Research Connection stays abreast of the latest discoveries in the field and supports early career scientists in contributing to this body of work by providing critical funding for their projects. It is essential that scientists have the resources to pursue novel research in order to develop improved prevention, treatment, and management options for type 1 diabetes. Learn more and support current projects by visiting https://diabetesresearchconnection.org.