A group of Japanese scientists has used gene therapy to deliver three insulin transcription factors, MafA, PDX-1, and NeuroD, to the livers of diabetic mice. As a result, the mice experienced an increase in insulin gene expression and insulin production, raising the possibility that this could eventually be used to treat diabetes. The research appears as the "Paper of the Week" in the April 15 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, an American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology journal.
Diabetes, which is marked by high blood-sugar levels, results when the body is unable to produce a sufficient amount of insulin or when it is unable to use insulin properly. There are several ways to restore normal blood sugar levels, including administration of insulin or pancreas and islet transplantation. However, the former involves daily injections and the latter requires life-long immunosuppressive therapy and is limited by tissue supply.
An alternative way to increase the amount of insulin circulating in the body is to enhance insulin gene transcription which in turn results in an increase in the production of insulin. One possible way to do this is by increasing the body’s production of transcription factors, the molecules that are in charge of turning gene transcription on and off.
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