Scientists Discover Our Muscles Detect Sugar And Help Regulate Glucose

It seems our taste buds, and beta cells in the pancreas are not the only cells in our body that detect sugar. Researchers at the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute recently discovered a sugar sensing mechanism in skeletal muscles that contributes to blood glucose regulation.

“We found that skeletal muscle cells have machinery to directly sense glucose; in a certain sense it's like the muscles can taste sugar, too,” said senior study author Jiandie Lin, an LSI faculty member.

Though not directly linked to insulin production and release, the muscles’ capacity to sense glucose works in tandem with our insulin-driven mechanisms to regulate glucose levels, especially after we eat.

The investigators studied the muscles’ glucose-sensing system by inhibiting its primary gene, BAF60C, in cell cultures and laboratory animals. When mice lacking this gene were given a high fat diet, they began showing a diminished ability to dispose of additional glucose after eating. This indicated the familiar pancreatic insulin mechanism was insufficient to manage the glucose on its own.

“We found that the molecular pathway that's engaged by glucose in muscle cells, at least the initial steps, is very similar to what happens in the beta cells in the pancreas,” says Lin.

Our muscles’ glucose sensing pathway may even be involved in the glucose-lowering effects of the diabetes drugs called sulfonylureas, according to the researchers. Also, a couple steps within the pathway may prove to be helpful targets for therapeutic compounds.

The researchers believe greater understanding of blood sugar regulation at the molecular level can teach us more about diabetes, and suggest new treatment avenues. “It's amazing how subtle changes in glucose can be detected throughout the body,” Lin said. “Beta cells respond, nerve cells respond, and now we know that muscle cells respond directly, too.”

Source: Science Daily
Photo credit: brett lohmeyer

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