Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Insulin-production Method Holds Promise For Diabetics, Impacts Other Fields

Date:
May 8, 2006
Source:
University of Houston
Summary:
University of Houston researchers have made a major discovery in diabetes research and diagnosis, finding a new mechanism for the formation of insulin crystals in the pancreas. Understanding how the body creates this hormone will make it easier for researchers to discover why some individuals do not produce enough insulin. This discovery is also an historic find in the area of crystal formation and use, as only the third mechanism of crystal formation ever discovered.

Thousands of block-shaped insulin molecules, each measuring five nanometers, attach themselves to crystals in special locations known as kinks. Vekilov and Georgiou found that groups of insulin blocks form mounds, resulting in the creation of multiple kinks. These additional kinks provided by the mounds allow for rapid growth of insulin crystals.
Credit: University of Houston

A University of Houston professor and his student have made a major discovery in the field of diabetes research and diagnosis, finding a new mechanism for the formation of insulin crystals in the pancreas.

Peter Vekilov, associate professor of chemical engineering, and Dimitra Georgiou, a recent doctoral graduate in chemical engineering, both in UH's Cullen College of Engineering, are behind this breakthrough. Since insufficient insulin production in the pancreas is one of the primary causes of adult-onset diabetes, Vekilov and Georgiou are studying the process of how insulin is produced in the first place. Understanding how the body creates this hormone will make it easier for researchers to discover why some individuals do not produce enough insulin and thus develop diabetes, Vekilov said. Specifically, the two have focused on the creation of insulin crystals, the form in which insulin is stored in the pancreas before it is released in the bloodstream.

"It is possible that the insulin deficiency happens when the crystals don't form properly and then part of the insulin that is produced gets destroyed," Vekilov said. Proinsulin, a molecular precursor to insulin itself, is the reason for these crystals. After an insulin molecule is produced from proinsulin, it attaches to an insulin crystal only in special locations where other insulin molecules have formed right angles, called kinks. Using atomic-force microscopy, they discovered a new mechanism by which insulin molecules attach themselves to crystals to form these kinks. They found that groups of insulin blocks create large protrusions, dubbed "mounds" by Vekilov and Georgiou. The very nature of these mounds results in the creation of multiple kinks -- far more, in fact, than other methods of kink formation.

By providing so many spaces where insulin molecules can attach to an insulin crystal, these mounds allow for the rapid growth of that crystal and only form when there is a surplus of insulin that allows for rapid crystal growth. Since no mounds appear when there is a lack of insulin and insulin crystals both grow and dissolve at kinks, mounds are important sources of a crystal's net growth.

"Typically in nature, fast growth also results in fast dissolution," Vekilov said. "But this process cheats physics because when there isn't a lot of insulin, mounds don't form. It's an asymmetric mechanism that has no balance."

While this discovery will play a significant role in gaining a better understanding of diabetes, it also is an historic find in the area of crystal formation and use, as only the third mechanism of crystal formation ever discovered. Before this finding, there were only two known ways that crystals grew -- the first was proposed in 1876 and the second in 1968. Though the first and second discoveries, proposed by prominent American scientist and founder of modern thermodynamics J.W. Gibbs and by Russian scientist V.V. Voronkov, respectively, only recently demonstrated their applicability to real systems, this latest mechanism has already been experimentally proven in the work by Vekilov and Georgiou.

"It is possible that crystals composed of materials other than insulin also grow in this manner," Vekilov said. "If so, this discovery could significantly impact any number of fields that deal with crystals. It can help us understand all processes of crystal formation, including semiconductor and optical materials, geological crystallization, ice formation and the physiological and pathological crystallization of proteins and small molecules."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Houston. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Houston. "New Insulin-production Method Holds Promise For Diabetics, Impacts Other Fields." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 May 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060508164411.htm>.
University of Houston. (2006, May 8). New Insulin-production Method Holds Promise For Diabetics, Impacts Other Fields. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060508164411.htm
University of Houston. "New Insulin-production Method Holds Promise For Diabetics, Impacts Other Fields." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060508164411.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

President To Send 3,000 Military Personnel To Fight Ebola

President To Send 3,000 Military Personnel To Fight Ebola

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) President Obama is expected to send 3,000 troops to West Africa as part of the effort to contain Ebola's spread. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Since the arrival of Ebola in Ivory Coast, Ivorians have been abandoning their pets, particularly monkeys, in the fear that they may transmit the virus. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Study Links Male-Pattern Baldness To Prostate Cancer

Study Links Male-Pattern Baldness To Prostate Cancer

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) New findings suggest men with a certain type of baldness at age 45 are 39 percent more likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

      Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins