A landmark discovery of how insulin docks on cells was made recently. This could lead to the development of improved types of insulin for treating both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
For the first time, researchers have captured the intricate way in which insulin uses the insulin receptor to bind to the surface of cells. This binding is necessary for the cells to take up sugar from the blood as energy.
The research team was led by the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and used the Australian Synchrotron in Melbourne, Australia.
For more than 20 years scientists have been trying to solve the mystery of how insulin binds to the insulin receptor.
A research team led by Associate Professor Mike Lawrence, Professor Colin Ward and Dr John Menting have now found the answer.
Associate Professor Lawrence from the institute's Structural Biology division said the team was excited to reveal for the first time a three-dimensional view of insulin bound to its receptor.
"Understanding how insulin interacts with the insulin receptor is fundamental to the development of novel insulins for the treatment of diabetes," Associate Professor Lawrence said.
"Until now we have not been able to see how these molecules interact with cells. We can now exploit this knowledge to design new insulin medications with improved properties, which is very exciting," he said.
The study is published in the journal Nature.