Scientists from the renowned Salk Institute for Biological Studies, have discovered that silencing a gene for a peptide involved in insulin secretion will not only reduce insulin resistance, in animal models, it will also help avoid the drawbacks associated with a high calorie diet.
The peptide in question is ucocortin 3. This was discovered after ucocortin 2. Both are peptides produced in the insulin secreting cells of the pancreas and both are responsible for the increased production of insulin, when a diet high in sugar and fat is taken.
The scientists led by Wylie Vale, discovered that when mice bred without the gene to produce urocortin 3 were given a high calorie diet, unlike other mice that went on to develop age related diabetes and insulin resistance, these mice did not.
The results of the study were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers were surprised not only by lowered amounts of blood sugar but also improved glucose tolerance and the absence of fatty livers.
Says Chien Li, another author, "It is possible that restraining the abnormally high levels of insulin secretion, which occurs with high caloric intake may help to maintain insulin sensitivity and, thus, avoid some of the untoward consequences of the high food intake and weight gain."
The researchers stress on the 'dark side ' of insulin production. An excess of insulin encountered by a high caloric diet, results in insulin resistance, high amounts of blood lipids and even damage to multiple organs.
From previous experiments it was seen that mice lacking urocortin 2 had increased insulin sensitivity, and were protected against high calorie induced-insulin resistance over time - just like mice without urocortin 3.
Additionally, the urocortin 2-deficient mice had less body fat and greater lean body mass.
The scientists are looking at a present study to find out if knocking out both of these genes will have any additional benefits.
Says Vale, " We know mice on a high-fat diet do better if either urocortin 2 or urocortin 3 is removed.
"We want to know if they do even better if both are missing. Such results may instruct us how best to develop therapeutic means to exploit these powerful effects," he adds.