blood sugar levels

Enzyme being investigated as having potential to help stabilise blood sugar levels

by Barbara Hewitt on December 7, 2017

A study in the United States is looking at how an enzyme, which regulates glucose production in the liver, could help people with diabetes stabilise their blood sugar levels.

The two-year research project at West Virginia University is looking at how the enzyme, called Nudt7, regulates coenzyme A levels and glucose production. High concentrations of coenzyme A in the liver can trigger a surge in the production of blood sugar, whereas low concentrations can cause blood sugar to plunge.

(kasto/Bigstock.com)

The aim is to look at things in a different way. Conventional diabetes medications tend to work by stabilising blood sugar levels, not by improving the chemical processes that underlie how the body makes and processes blood sugar in the first place.

‘It is like having a car that is leaking antifreeze, but instead of fixing the leak, you just keep buying cases of antifreeze and refilling the engine,’ said Stephanie Shumar, a graduate student in WVU’s school of medicine who is leading the study.

She explained that a couple of papers have been written about the enzyme at the centre of her work, but not much is known about it or its role in regulating coenzyme A and blood sugar levels.

‘We are very excited about this project and the potential therapeutic applications,’ she said, adding that by focusing on an enzyme that regulates glucose production, instead of on glucose itself, she hopes to provide a knowledge base on which new medications that target coenzyme A can be built.

Indeed, such medications may have a broader impact on diabetics’ health, alleviating multiple complications at once and getting closer to treating diabetes itself, rather than just its symptoms.

‘A lot of times, people who are diabetic also have cardiac problems, eye problems, all types of problems. But the underlying problem starts with the diabetes, which leads to other issues. Whenever you take medication for your eye problems or your heart problems, you’re still diabetic, Shumar pointed out.

According to the National Institutes of Health as diabetes is the leading cause of adult onset blindness, the leading cause of kidney failure and the seventh leading cause of death in the US, research like Shumar’s may have a dramatic effect on well-being for people with diabetes.

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