There may be a genetic connection between certain mental health disorders and type 2 diabetes. In a new report appearing in the February 2016 issue of The FASEB Journal, scientists show that a gene called "DISC1," which is believed to play a key role in mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and some forms of depression, influences the function of pancreatic beta cells which produce insulin to maintain normal blood glucose levels. The FASEB Journal article is titled “Beyond the Brain: Disrupted in Schizophrenia 1 Regulates Pancreatic β-cell Function via Glycogen Synthase Kinase-3β.” "Studies exploring the biology of disease have increasingly identified the involvement of unanticipated proteins--DISC1 fits this category," said Rita Bortell, Ph.D., a researcher involved in new work from the Diabetes Center of Excellence at the Universityof Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Massachusetts. "Our hope is that the association we've found linking disrupted DISC1 to both diabetes and psychiatric disorders may uncover mechanisms to improve therapies, even preventative ones, to alleviate suffering caused by both illnesses which are extraordinarily costly, very common, often quite debilitating." To make their discovery, Dr. Bortell and colleagues studied the function of DISC1 by comparing two groups of mice. The first group was genetically manipulated to disrupt the DISC1 gene only in the mouse's pancreatic beta cells. The second group of mice was normal. The mice with disrupted DISC1 gene showed increased beta cell death, less insulin secretion, and impaired glucose regulation while control mice were normal.
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