Scientists have identified the role of a molecule they say has the potential to control blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
A team at Nottingham Trent University investigated the effects of ‘carnosine’ on insulin secretion from the pancreas and glucose uptake into muscle cells.
In laboratory tests, they found that that carnosine was able to double the amount of insulin released from pancreatic beta cells – cells which are responsible for making and releasing it.
Importantly, carnosine was also able to reverse the inhibition of insulin secretion that results from exposure of these cells to high levels of sugar and fat.
The team also observed improved glucose uptake into skeletal muscle cells.
Type 2 diabetes – often associated with obesity – occurs when the pancreas does not release enough insulin, or the cells of the body do not react to insulin.
This means glucose stays in the blood and is not used as fuel for energy – and can instead lead to toxic molecules forming.
There are a number of medications currently available to treat type 2 diabetes, but these often become less effective over time.
The study suggests that carnosine could represent a new treatment option, as it works by removing damaging toxic molecules that form when cells are exposed to high levels of sugar and fat.
The researchers say that – as it is already available as a nutritional supplement – it could be used in its natural form by patients immediately and without prescription to potentially help control their blood sugar.
It could also form the basis for the development of new drugs in the future, for those who find the supplement of limited benefit.
The scientists argue that increasing glucose uptake into cells would also help to offset insulin resistance that typically leads to pre-diabetes – offering potential protection against developing the disease.
In 2011 it was estimated that there were 347 million people worldwide living with diabetes – more than 90% of which have type 2. By 2030 the figure is expected to have doubled that reported in 2000.
The study, which also involved King’s College London, is reported in Nature Publishing Group journal, Scientific Reports.
“Our study suggests that carnosine may improve prognosis for patients with type 2 diabetes,” said lead researcher Dr Mark Turner, a scientist in Nottingham Trent University’s School of Science and Technology.
“It not only enhances insulin secretion and skeletal muscle insulin sensitivity, but is also able to reverse the damaging effect of glucose and fat on these cells. As such, our work indicates likely improved control of blood sugar levels from taking carnosine.
“Carnosine is a naturally occurring molecule which is thought to promote healthy ageing. We wanted to determine whether it exerts beneficial action on cells and tissues that control blood sugar levels in the body.
“There is an urgent need to identify new treatments that work differently to current options – and as this is available as a nutritional supplement it might even help to play an immediate role in the general population.”
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Nottingham Trent University was named Modern University of the Year in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018. The award recognises NTU for its strong student satisfaction, quality of teaching, overall student experience and engagement with employers.
Nottingham Trent University (NTU) has been awarded the highest, gold, rating in the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework for its outstanding teaching and learning.
NTU is one of the largest UK universities with nearly 28,000 students and more than 3,500 staff across four campuses, contributing £496m to the UK economy every year. It is one of the most environmentally-friendly universities, containing some of the country’s most inspiring and efficient award-winning buildings.
The University is passionate about creating opportunities and its extensive outreach programme is designed to enable Nottingham Trent to be a vehicle for social mobility. NTU is the sixth biggest recruiter of students from disadvantaged backgrounds in the country and 95.6% of the its graduates go on to employment or further education within six months of leaving.
NTU is home to world-class research, winning The Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2015 - the highest national honour for a UK university. It recognised the University’s pioneering projects to improve weapons and explosives detection in luggage, enable safer production of powdered infant formula and combat food fraud.
With an international student population of approximately 2,600 from around 100 countries, the University prides itself on its global outlook.