A new study entitled “Ciliary dysfunction impairs beta-cell insulin secretion and promotes development of type 2 diabetes in rodents” published in the Nature Communications journal, reports the unknown role of cilia in pancreatic cells responsible for the production of insulin, thus leading to a new clue for the development of diabetes.
The team of scientists at Helmholtz Zentrum München (HMGU), at Karolinska Institutet (KI), Stockholm and the University College London investigated the role of cilium – an organelle found in eukaryotic cells that consist as projections of the main body of the cell and work as sensory organelles – in diabetes. In order to accomplish this, the authors focused on the primary cilium of the pancreatic insulin-producing cells β-cells. The authors found the insulin receptor is recruited to the cilium of stimulated β-cells and cilium are necessary to activation of signaling pathway. In diabetic mice, the team of researchers observed less ciliated β-cells with dysregulated signaling insulin pathway.
Thus, the authors suggest a previous unknown role of cilia in insulin secretion and insulin signaling in β-cells, with implications to the development of diabetes. Obesity and type 2 diabetes are both major epidemics worldwide. In the United States alone, 1.7 million new cases were diagnosed in 2012.
Jantje M. Gerdes, the study’s first author noted, “It has been known for some time that the rate of type 2 diabetes is above average in people with ciliopathy, which is a pathological ciliary dysfunction. Our results confirm this observation and additionally explain how cilia are linked to sugar metabolism and diabetes.”
Professor Per-Olof Berggren, at KI and study leading author added, “Ciliary dysfunction and defective glucose utilization are directly linked. Ciliopathies therefore, have a potential function as models in the investigation of many still unknown mechanisms that underlie diabetes.” Given the new understanding that cilia plays in the onset of diabetes at the cellular level, these insights may give rise to novel therapeutics that can better control glucose levels in the body, thus reducing the effects of the disease.