There are 2 kinds of diabetes. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease in which the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas have been killed by the immune system, usually in childhood. Far more common is type 2 diabetes, whose causes are multiple, but can involve a failure of the beta cells to produce insulin or a failure of the rest of the body to respond to it. Diabetes is a major research focus of the DNF, and topics of research include the following:
Death of beta cells in Type 1 diabetes.
To learn how to prevent this cell death, DNF researchers are analysing the underlying molecular mechanisms, and have discovered that a particular fragment of the protein RASGAP, called the N-terminal fragment protects beta cells against death.
Inadequate insulin secretion in some forms of type 2 diabetes.
To understand and ultimately cure this problem, the molecular mechanisms of the secretion are being analysed, including the key role of some small proteins called Rab GTPases, and a gene, IB1 (also known as JIP-1), that was originally discovered by the research group that now studies it in the DNF.
Lipid problems in diabetes.
Some forms of type 2 diabetes appear to be caused by problems with lipids or lipoproteins, and the cell biology of this is being elucidated.
For more information on the diabetes research at the DNF, see Regazzi