Mitochondria May Be Key to Maintaining Safe Blood Sugar Levels in Diabetes

The key to keeping blood sugar levels safely maintained may be found within intracellular changes to some brain cells.

The key to keeping blood sugar levels safely maintained may be found within intracellular changes to some brain cells. A new study, led by researchers from Yale School of Medicine, provides findings that point to mitochondrial changes as a potential pathway to more efficient management of type 1 and type 2 diabetes with reduced complications

The study, published in Cell Metabolism, found that changes to the mitochondria, such as in size and shape, that exist in a small subset of brain cells might play a role in keeping blood sugar levels in a safe range.

Researchers examined mouse models, where a specific mitochondrial protein called dynamic-related protein 1 (DRP1) was either present in varying amounts or absent in the subset of brain cells that monitor blood sugar levels.

The results showed that the mitochondria appeared to change in size and shape, depending on whether the mouse was hungry or not. Neurons without the DRP1 were more sensitive to changes in glucose levels. Most surprisingly was the indication that these mitochondrial changes played a crucial part in increasing blood sugar levels during fasting, activating the brain’s regulatory responses to hypoglycemia to send signals to the increase glucose production.

These results can have implications for treating diabetes-related complications, especially hypoglycemia-associated autonomic failure (HAAF), which can be affected by alterations in this mechanism. The researchers plan to focus further on how mitochondrial morphological changes relate to mitochondrial function in this subset of neurons in the development of HAAF.

These findings could lead to more effective diabetes management with the potential for fewer complications.

Reference

Size matters when it comes to keeping blood sugar levels in check [news release]. Yale’s website. http://news.yale.edu/2017/02/09/size-matters-when-it-comes-keeping-blood-sugar-levels-check. Accessed Feb. 10, 2017.