Matthew Merrins, PhD, assistant professor, Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, has been awarded $1.7 M over five years from the National Institutes of Health for research to elucidate the mechanisms by which glucose metabolism activates insulin secretion in pancreatic beta cells.
The study, entitled “Metabolic Functions of Pyruvate Kinase M2 in Pancreatic Beta Cells,” will investigate the hypothesis that modulating the activity of an isoform of an enzyme called pyruvate kinase. Dr. Merrins’ group previously established that, of the three different forms of pyruvate kinase in the cell, the M2 isoform is involved in insulin secretion and regulation of calcium ion levels in the endoplasmic reticulum - two processes that fail during type 2 diabetes. Using specialized cellular imaging methods that allow visualization of metabolic processes, researchers will identify the timing and sequence by which pyruvate kinase M2 controls metabolic and secretory pathways in pancreatic beta cells, which are responsible for producing insulin.
Dr. Merrins and colleagues hope that this work could ultimately lay the groundwork for new therapeutic approaches to restore insulin secretion in people living with type 2 diabetes and related metabolic diseases. Presently, more than 375 M people worldwide live with type 2 diabetes.