• Proteins targeted by Botox treatments could be key to providing treatment or cure to Type 2 diabetes
• Molecular microscopic techniques on SNARE proteins will investigate how insulin release is regulated
A team of scientists at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh think that the proteins could play a role in the search for new therapies for diabetic patients.
They are using new molecular microscopic techniques on the SNARE proteins to solve the mystery of how insulin release is regulated and how this changes in patients with Type 2 diabetes.
The SNARE proteins are targeted by Botox treatments, preventing them from helping muscles contract. But the proteins also play a role in the functions of the pancreas.
The team, led by Dr Colin Rickman, are observing SNARE proteins in the highly specialised cells that release insulin in the pancreas.
Within these cells are SNARE proteins, which are the machinery that helps the insulin cells release the insulin to try and stabilise blood glucose levels.
Dr Rickman said, “The human body has a system for storing glucose and releasing it when the body needs energy. This system controlled by the release of insulin.
“When a person is obese, which a worryingly high and increasing number of people in the UK are, this system is put under pressure and eventually fails. This leads to Type 2 diabetes.
“We know SNARE proteins are responsible for insulin secretion, but it’s still not understood exactly how they do it.
“Once we can understand how these proteins behave in ‘normal’ circumstances, how they move, how they are arranged in the cell, how they interact with other proteins, we can then compare it with what happens under Type 2 diabetic conditions.”
Dr Rickman said ultimately this could lead to new methods of diagnosis, prevention and treatments for Type 2 diabetes.