September 25, 2001
Research: Other Research
Question from Detroit, Michigan, USA:
Our eight year old was diagnosed with diabetes a year ago which we were told was caused by a virus that triggered his immune system to launch an attack on the cells in his pancreas, thus stopping insulin production. A friend of mine sent me an article she received regarding the discovery of a protein, PGC-1, which is believed to be the “switch” that regulates the liver’s production of glucose. The researchers said sugar builds up dangerously in the bloodstream of people with diabetes because this switch doesn’t turn off. Finding this key blood sugar controller could yield new diabetes drugs.
We have never heard anything about this. Is this true? If so, what impact, then, would this new discovery have in the future treatment/management/cure of our child’s diabetes?
I believe that the paper you friend was referring to was Control of hepatic gluconeogenesis through the transcriptional coactivator PGC-1 in the latest issue of Nature (Sept.13;413, 2001).
PGC-1 is indeed an important recently discovered (transcription) factor that activates a number of enzymes that are promoters of gluconeogenesis (the conversion of protein to glucose). As you can imagine, its role is more to raise blood sugar during hypoglycemia than to depress it in hyperglycemia.
As it is, there is a drug called Glucophage [metformin] which is widely used in type 2 diabetes and also, but to a much lesser extent, in conjunction with insulin in type 1 diabetes, to better control high blood sugars by the restriction of gluconeogenesis.