The researchers took samples from hibernating bears. Unlike humans, the brown bear can control its insulin and limit the risk of diabetes.
In 2019, in France, about 4 million people were identified as diabetic by the Health Insurance. To better understand the mechanism of insulin, the researchers turned to… grizzly bears.
Each year, bears gain weight before hibernating during the long winter months. A behavior that does not affect their metabolism but that would give diabetes to many humans. Researchers at Washington State University (USA) have found the genetic keys to insulin control in bears. An advance that could lead to a treatment for diabetes in humans.
The scientists observed thousands of changes in gene expression during hibernation, they managed to isolate eight proteins. “There appear to be eight proteins that act independently or in concert to modulate insulin sensitivity and resistance seen in hibernating bearsreported Joanna Kelley, evolutionary geneticist and corresponding author of this study in a declaration. Before adding:These eight proteins have human counterparts. They are not exclusive to bears. The same genes are found in humans, which means there may be a direct opportunity for translation.“. These conclusions were published in iScience September 21, 2022.
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To understand the mechanism that may be responsible for insulin resistance, the researchers performed RNA sequencing. They collected cells and blood serum during the active and hibernating seasons, as well as during a period of interrupted hibernation. At this time, the bears were fed water with honey. “Feeding the bears for just two weeks during hibernation allowed us to control other things like day length and temperature, as well as food availability.“, explained the geneticist.
The researchers placed the serum from interrupted hibernation into a cell culture taken from regularly hibernating bears and found that these cells began to show changes in activity similar to those of active-season cells. With this, scientists will now study how these proteins work to reverse insulin resistance.
“It is a step towards a better understanding of what happens at the genetic level and the identification of specific molecules that control insulin resistance in bears.“, emphasized Blair Perry, co-author of the study. Perhaps a first step towards a means to prevent or treat human diabetes.
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