New hope for preventing severe low blood sugar in diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on April 8, 2019

New research has found a protein that could help prevent people with diabetes having dangerous, severe blood sugar falls that can lead to hypoglycaemia which can be fatal.

The insight into a recently discovered protein called neuronostatin could lead to new ways to treat and prevent hypoglycaemia, according to the researchers from the Saint Louis University School of Medicine in the United States.

Scientists Lab

(By Gorodenkoff/

For people with diabetes, taking too much insulin can lead to low blood sugar, causing dizziness and sleepiness. Symptoms may progress to confusion, seizures and loss of consciousness if blood sugar levels continue to fall.

Severe hypoglycaemia can also increase the risk of more hypoglycaemic episodes in the following days and leads to a decreased awareness of the symptoms that typically allow a person to sense falling blood sugar levels.

‘There are very few options for preventing hypoglycaemia or treating hypoglycaemia unawareness other than avoiding low blood sugar as much as possible,’ said researchers Stephen Grote and Gina Yosten.

‘Understanding what neuronostatin does and how it works will provide valuable information for preventing hypoglycaemia and provide more complete knowledge into how the pancreas manages blood sugar normally,’ they explained.

In previous work, Yosten’s research group discovered neuronostatin. Their work has shown that the protein protects against hypoglycaemia by causing the pancreas to release less insulin and make more glucagon, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels.

Now, in a new rat study, the researchers observed that neuronostatin injections caused an increase in blood sugar. They also examined human pancreas tissue and found that it released more neuronostatin when blood sugar levels were low and that neuronostatin increased even more with glucagon treatment.

The new research points to neuronostatin as a potential therapeutic target for the treatment and prevention of hypoglycaemia in people with diabetes.

‘Neuronostatin is a truly novel factor, and everything we find about it pushes our knowledge of its therapeutic potential just a bit further. We believe that studying neuronostatin could ultimately reveal a way to use it to help prevent and reverse vicious cycles of hypoglycaemia by helping the body respond appropriately to the low blood sugar with more glucagon,’ Grote pointed out.

The researchers are now working to better understand how neuronostatin affects glucagon and insulin release from human islets and how the body regulates neuronostatin secretion. They are also using experimental approaches that disrupt the body’s response to low blood sugar to investigate how this affects neuronostatin levels and to determine if neuronostatin can be used to better manage low blood sugar.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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