Diabetes Week July 9-15th: Breakdown of insulin

HELPING: The Diabetes Australian Research Program supports and develops outstanding diabetes research in Australia, such as this University of Sydney study.
HELPING: The Diabetes Australian Research Program supports and develops outstanding diabetes research in Australia, such as this University of Sydney study.

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We don’t notice it while we go about our daily lives but inside our bodies our cells are talking to each other – all day, every day.

It’s just a part of how our bodies keep functioning.

This communication happens in all sorts of ways.

For example, insulin, a hormone, is released from specialised cells in the pancreas to inform cells in other organs about blood sugar levels.

When this process is disrupted things can go wrong.

A new study lead by Dr James Burchfield from the University of Sydney, and supported by Diabetes Australia, is looking at how the breakdown in the insulin signaling system in the body contributes to insulin resistance, which can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.

“My study is looking at how the insulin signal connects to a transport protein (GLUT4) that helps muscle and fat absorb glucose,” he said.

James Burchfield

James Burchfield

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“GLUT4 acts as a kind of doorway allowing glucose into the muscle and fat cells where it can be stored for later use, however if GLUT4 is in the wrong place, the glucose can’t be absorbed. It is this breakdown in signaling that we want to explore.

“As part of our research we will be developing mathematical models that will help us better understand how the insulin pathways function.

“The idea is that if we can better understand the insulin signalling system it could pave the way for the development of new ways of treating people with type 2 diabetes.”

The Diabetes Australian Research Program supports and develops outstanding diabetes research in Australia, such as this study, by funding a range of grants across the full spectrum of diabetes research through a merit based, competitive, peer review process.

Research projects can focus on prevention, management of diabetes or the cure for diabetes.

Two Millennium Awards of up to $150,000 – one for type one diabetes and one for type two – as well as general grants of up to $60,000 are awarded annually. 

The idea is that if we can better understand the insulin signalling system it could pave the way for the development of new ways of treating people with type 2 diabetes

JAMES BURCHFIELD