July 2, 2011
A new study led by an Indian professor has revealed that zinc may perform a protective function preventing major damage for those with type 2 diabetes.
Ayyalusamy Ramamoorthy, a professor of chemistry and of biophysics at the University of Michigan, says a protein called amylin forms dense clumps that shut down insulin-producing cells, wreaking havoc on blood sugar control.
According to Ramamoorthy and his colleagues, however, zinc may help prevent amylin from misbehaving.
Amylin has often been described as a two-faced character, being that in healthy people, who have normal levels of zinc in the insulin-producing islet cells of the pancreas, amylin pitches in to help with blood sugar regulation.
Amylin is helpful because zinc acts like a security guard at a rock concert, whose job is to keep fans from turning troublesome and destructive, Ramamoorthy explained.
On the other hand, in a zinc-deprived cellular environment of a patient with type 2 diabetes, amylin has no security guard to rein it in and thus is free to clump together with other amylin molecules in the molecular equivalent of a hostile mob.
The study appears in the upcoming issue of the Journal of Molecular Biology.