Researchers at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals have made a significant breakthrough in understanding diabetes, a chronic condition affecting millions worldwide.
Their findings, published in the journal Cell on December 5th, could pave the way for new treatments targeting the root causes of the disease.
Diabetes is a condition where the body struggles to regulate blood sugar levels effectively, often due to the hormone insulin not functioning correctly. It can lead to various health problems, including heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.
The study focuses on nitric oxide, a compound with various bodily roles, such as widening blood vessels, enhancing memory, and fighting infections.
However, scientists have long been puzzled about how nitric oxide accomplishes these functions.
The research team identified a crucial “carrier” enzyme known as SNO-CoA-assisted nitrosylase, or SCAN.
This enzyme is crucial in attaching nitric oxide to proteins, including the receptors responsible for insulin’s action in the body.
Their investigation revealed that SCAN is essential for normal insulin function. However, they also observed elevated SCAN activity in diabetic individuals and mice with diabetes.
Intriguingly, mice lacking the SCAN enzyme appeared to be protected from diabetes, suggesting that excessive nitric oxide binding to proteins might contribute to the disease.
Lead researcher Jonathan Stamler explained, “We show that blocking this enzyme protects from diabetes, but the implications extend to many diseases likely caused by novel enzymes that add nitric oxide. Blocking this enzyme may offer a new treatment.”
The next steps in this research involve developing medications that target the SCAN enzyme, potentially opening the door to innovative diabetes treatments.
Nitric oxide binding excessively to key proteins has been associated with several human diseases, including Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart failure, and diabetes. This discovery shifts the focus towards enzymes that attach nitric oxide to proteins.
In diabetes, the body loses its ability to respond to insulin correctly. As a result, blood sugar levels rise and can lead to various health complications over time.
Conditions like heart disease, vision problems, and kidney disease are more likely to occur in individuals with diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The exact reasons behind insulin’s malfunction in diabetes have remained unclear for a long time. Excessive nitric oxide has been implicated in many diseases, but targeting it directly has proven challenging due to its reactive nature.
Jonathan Stamler emphasized the importance of this discovery: “This paper shows that dedicated enzymes mediate the many effects of nitric oxide. Here, we discover an enzyme that puts nitric oxide on the insulin receptor to control insulin.
Too much enzyme activity causes diabetes. But a case is made for many enzymes putting nitric oxide on many proteins, and, thus, new treatments for many diseases.”
In summary, this groundbreaking research provides fresh hope for the future of diabetes treatment by identifying a potential target for medication development.
It also sheds light on the role of nitric oxide in various diseases, potentially paving the way for innovative treatments across various health conditions.
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The research findings can be found in Cell.
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