Zinc may help with type 2 diabetes

July 1, 2011 at 10:22 PM

ANN ARBOR, Mich., July 1 (UPI) -- Zinc may perform a protective function for those with type 2 diabetes, researchers at the University of Michigan suggests.

Ayyalusamy Ramamoorthy, a professor of chemistry and of biophysics, says a protein called amylin forms dense clumps that shut down insulin-producing cells, wreaking havoc on blood sugar control, but zinc may help prevent amylin from misbehaving.

In healthy people who have normal levels of zinc in the insulin-producing islet cells of the pancreas, amylin pitches in to help with blood sugar regulation, and an analog -- chemical compound similar to a nature substance -- of amylin called Symlin is used in conjunction with insulin to manage blood sugar levels in diabetics, Ramamoorthy says.

Amylin is helpful because zinc acts like a security guard at a rock concert, whose job is to keep fans from turning troublesome and destructive, Ramamoorthy says. But in a zinc-starved cellular environment of a patient with type 2 diabetes, amylin has no watchful guard to rein it in and it is free to clump together with other amylin molecules in the molecular equivalent of a gang, Ramamoorthy explains.

The findings are published in the Journal of Molecular Biology.

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