Scientists have discovered that one of the most diabolical proteins implicated in diabetes not only kills insulin-producing cells through one mechanism, but also damages the cells it doesn't kill through a second, novel mechanism.
Reigning in this rogue protein, called TXNIP, could significantly control diabetes, a disease that affects nearly 9 percent of Americans and is rapidly becoming a major cause of death and disability worldwide.
The scientists, from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, identified several never-before-realized routes to target TXNIP with drugs. Their study appears today (Aug. 25) in the journal Nature Medicine.
The protein TXNIP, short for thioredoxin-interacting protein, is involved in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Dr. Anath Shalev, director of the UAB Comprehensive Diabetes Center and senior author on the new paper, discovered nearly a decade ago that TXNIP is activated by sugars and kills beta cells. She found that TXNIP can unleash a wave of molecules called free radicals that tell the beta cells to commit cellular suicide in a process called apoptosis.