Thursday, February 23, 2017

Insulin Signaling Defects Tied to Conditions Beyond Diabetes

Aurelio Galli, PhD, is a psychiatry professor at Vanderbilt University who had an integral role in the creation of a substance-abuse neuroscience program. Respected in his field, Dr. Aurelio Galli has undertaken extensive research on the neurobiology of addiction. In 2010, his work was featured in an article in The Scientist that explored his groundbreaking collaboration with an endocrinologist on the way in which molecular-level insulin signaling may be responsible for a host of major illnesses. 

Known best for its role in the development of diabetes, insulin is a hormone that serves to regulate energy and is released by pancreatic beta cells following glucose blood sugar spikes after meals. Insulin activates certain proteins through binding to cell membranes’ insulin receptors. In diabetics, this signaling pathway gets disrupted, with the hormone either not being secreted (Type 1 diabetes) or the cells failing to respond normally to insulin (Type 2). 

Dr. Galli’s research focused on the protein kinase Akt suggests that when signaling is defective, other conditions, such as schizophrenia, may occur. This relates to the ways in which insulin and Akt impact dopamine levels in the brain. Insulin signaling issues have also been connected to a diversity of other disease processes, from bone-mass regulation defects to cancerous growths.

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