Vitamin K’s new role in diabetes protection: A breakthrough discovery

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Scientists at Université de Montréal and its affiliated Montreal Clinical Research Institute (IRCM) have made a breakthrough discovery in the understanding of diabetes.

They found a novel role for vitamin K and gamma-carboxylation in pancreatic beta cells.

This pioneering finding, the first of its kind in 15 years of basic research, is a significant leap forward in our comprehension of diabetes, a condition that afflicts one in every eleven individuals globally.

The study, published in Cell Reports on May 11, uncovers the mechanisms by which vitamin K can prevent diabetes, opening up potential new avenues for therapeutic applications in treating type 2 diabetes.

Vitamin K and Gamma-carboxylation: More Than Just Blood Clotting

Vitamin K is a micronutrient primarily recognized for its role in blood clotting, specifically its contribution to gamma-carboxylation, an enzymatic reaction pivotal to the clotting process.

However, for several years, there has been suspicion that vitamin K and, therefore, gamma-carboxylation may have other vital functions.

Previous studies have hinted at a correlation between a lower intake of vitamin K and an increased risk of diabetes, yet the biological mechanisms through which vitamin K can defend against diabetes have remained a mystery. Until now.

An Essential Role in Pancreatic Beta Cells

The research team led by Mathieu Ferron, associate research professor of medicine at Université de Montréal, discovered that the enzymes involved in gamma-carboxylation, and consequently in the use of vitamin K, are present in substantial quantities in pancreatic beta cells.

These are the very cells responsible for the production of insulin, the hormone crucial for controlling blood sugar levels.

Given that diabetes is typically caused by a decrease in the number of beta cells or their impaired insulin production, this finding was of significant interest to the research team.

To further understand the cellular mechanism by which vitamin K supports beta cell function, they sought to identify which protein was targeted by gamma-carboxylation in these cells.

A New Gamma-carboxylated Protein Identified

The team identified a novel gamma-carboxylated protein, ERGP, that plays a vital role in maintaining physiological levels of calcium in beta cells to prevent disturbances in insulin secretion.

The study confirmed that vitamin K, through gamma-carboxylation, is vital for ERGP to function optimally.

This discovery marks the first time in 15 years that a new vitamin K-dependent protein has been identified, opening up an entirely new field of research in this area.

This could herald a new chapter in understanding and potentially treating diabetes, one of the world’s most prevalent diseases.

If you care about diabetes, please read studies about new way to achieve type 2 diabetes remission, and one avocado a day keeps diabetes at bay.

If you care about bone health, please read studies about vitamin K deficiency linked to hip fractures in old people, and these vitamins could help reduce bone fracture risk.

The study was published in Cell Reports.

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