TXNIP: New Clue from UAB for Treating Diabetes

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) have discovered that a protein called TXNIP may provide important clues for better diabetes treatments. They found that this protein not only plays a role in the destruction of beta cells in the pancreas, but it also controls the ability of those cells to make insulin.

Taken together, these two molecular pathways provide important clues for developing new diabetes treatments. Anath Shalev is Director of the UAB Comprehensive Diabetes Center and senior author of a new paper outlining these findings in Nature Medicine. She commented on the work:

We spent years confirming that TXNIP drives beta-cell death in both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. We were astounded to find that its action also contributes to a second major diabetic mechanism — the decrease seen in insulin production by beta cells — by a mechanism never before seen.

Beyond the potential implications for diabetes drug design, our finding fundamentally alters the current understanding of the relationships between TXNIP, microRNAs, gene expression and insulin production. The field may once again have to rethink its concepts of gene regulation, including that of insulin.

Already the research team has identified a new class of drugs that can regulate TXNIP to increase insulin production and extend the life of beta cells. Working with the Southern Research Institute and Alabama Drug Discovery Alliance, they have screened more than 300,000 small molecules. They have candidates for drug development with potential to normalize levels of TXNIP.

Watch this space for further advances in diabetes treatment.

Click here to read more from UAB and here to read the study published in Nature Medicine.

Diabetes, 2 of 4, photograph © Dennis Skley / flickr

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