Campus: San Diego State University -- June 21, 2004

SDSU Researchers' Discovery May Advance Treatment Against Adult-Onset Diabetes

Obesity and Heart Disease Study Identifies Protein that Regulates Insulin

San Diego State University researchers have identified an important regulatory protein that controls insulin levels and response a discovery that may lead to new therapies to treat adult-onset diabetes, obesity, heart disease and other metabolic-related diseases.

Results from the three-year study, which was part of a five-year, $1.8 million grant funded by the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association, are published this month in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

The SDSU researchers, led by biology professor Roger Davis and
graduate student Simon Hui, in collaboration with investigators at UCLA and the University of Wisconsin, discovered that a mutation in the thioredoxin interacting protein (Txnip) gene caused the liver to export fat instead of glucose in response to fasting. Most tissues produce Txnip, a process that is increased by glucose. The abnormal response to fasting of mice lacking Txnip was linked to an inappropriately enhanced insulin secretion by the pancreas.

"Our findings suggesting the importance of Txnip in regulating insulin secretion and its control of liver metabolism should allow us to identify novel therapeutic targets for diabetes, obesity and heart disease, which kill millions of people in the U.S. every year," Davis said.

Davis and his team of researchers are now altering embryonic stem cells to derive mice that do not express the Txnip gene. These mice will beused to determine how Txnip regulates insulin secretion and metabolic response.

Davis is a key member of the SDSU Heart Institute, which is dedicated to promoting awareness for and prevention of heart disease through research, education and community outreach. The SDSU Heart Institute will soon be housed in the SDSU BioSciences Center, set to break ground in the fall. The five-story, 33,000 square-foot facility will also be home to the SDSU Center for Microbial Sciences, the Molecular Biology Institute and other core research facilities.

Contact: Aaron J. Hoskins, (619) 594-1119,

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