Fruit flies have cells that function like a miniature pancreas. Thats good news not only for the flies, but also for researchers hoping to use the tiny insects to develop cures for diabetes.
Almost two years ago Seung Kim, MD, PhD, assistant professor of developmental biology and of medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine, and colleagues including then-postdoctoral scholar Eric Rulifson, PhD, found cells in the fruit fly brain that make insulin. These cells tell the flys energy-storing organ, called a fat body, to store sugar and fat after a meal. In research published in the Sept. 16 issue of Nature the scientists report finding the other crucial half of the pancreatic equation - cells producing a glucagonlike hormone.
Together, glucagon and insulin act as a thermostat keeping blood sugar within a normal range. Islet cells produce insulin to lower blood sugar after a meal. When the amount of sugar in the blood dips between meals, other pancreatic cells produce glucagon to raise it. "Without glucagon or insulin youre in big trouble," Kim said. "We found thats also true in flies."
Mitzi Baker | EurekAlert!
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