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Understanding diabetes using mice

Scientists who have observed how a specific gene works in mice, believe their findings could help develop new types of diabetes therapies.

A team from EARA member the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG), Dresden University of Technology, both Germany, the University of Oulu, Finland, and the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, looked at the Wnt4 gene found in beta cells in the pancreas of mice, which are an important factor in diabetes disease.

They found that Wnt4 genes allow beta cells to communicate with each other, and helps co-ordinate the release of insulin.

When there was less Wnt4, the beta cells released less insulin – a hormone that is either not produced in people with diabetes, or produced in insufficient amounts.

Professor Anne Grapin-Botton, director at MPI-CBG, believes these findings could help to develop therapies for diabetes by adding Wnt4.

She said: “It was exciting to find communication between beta cells in the pancreas, its conservation across several animal species and the mechanisms by which it operates, notably the profound metabolic changes [Wnt] provokes in beta cells.”


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