Diabetes cure a step closer with Kiwi discovery

  • 05/12/2016

New Zealand scientists are celebrating a breakthrough in diabetes research after discovering a missing link in our knowledge of type 2 diabetes.

University of Auckland scientists have found a protein called beta-catenin controls the release of insulin from the pancreas to maintain stable blood sugar levels.

"This means in the future we've got a better opportunity to develop new treatments or even preventative strategies for this disease," Professor Peter Shepherd says.

In type 2 diabetes, either the body doesn't produce enough insulin or the cells in the body don't recognise the insulin that's there, leading to high levels of glucose in the blood.

"What's most interesting about it is that this links to one of the recently discovered genetic variants that makes some people more likely to get diabetes than others."

Prof Shepherd expects the research will lead to more targeted drugs that better treats those with type 2 diabetes.

"This is actually a real Kiwi discovery - normally we have to collaborate with people overseas, but we've got a great team here in Auckland who've done it all by themselves."

Health Research Council chief executive Professor Kath McPherson says fundamental scientific research is essential to making good medicine.

"We can't develop new treatments for chronic diseases like diabetes unless we understand the biology behind them," she says.