Published on September 21, 2012 at 4:31 AM
"We need to conduct controlled clinical trials showing that changes in the iron content of the body can reduce the risk of diabetes. Only then will we be able to advise people at risk of diabetes not to take iron supplements, or recommend drug treatment to reduce the amount of iron in the body," says Thomas Mandrup-Poulsen.
The evolutionary explanation
The team behind the scientific article in Cell Metabolism can see that the inflammatory signal substances created around the beta cells in both type-1 and type-2 diabetes accelerate the activity of the iron transporter.
"The evolutionary explanation of why the highly specialised beta cells are influenced by the inflammatory signal substances and contain the potentially dangerous iron transport proteins is presumably that the short-term increase in the amount of oxygen radicals is critical to the fine-tuning of insulin production during bouts of fever and stress. However, nature had not foreseen the long-term local production of signal substances around the beta cells, which we see in type-1 and type-2 diabetes," continues Thomas Mandrup-Poulsen.
The new results have implications for many scientists, not only those conducting research in diabetes. The beta cell can be used as a model for other cells that are particularly sensitive to iron, such as liver cells and cardiac-muscle cells.
Source: University of Copenhagen