Proteins affected by Botox examined in Heriot-Watt diabetes study

Snare proteins
Image caption The researchers are focusing on snare proteins which are targeted by Botox treatments

The proteins which are targeted by Botox could help unlock the secret of treating and possibly even curing Type 2 diabetes.

A research team at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh is using new molecular microscopic techniques to try to uncover the mysteries of how insulin release is regulated.

They are focusing on snare proteins which are targeted by Botox treatments.

They are useful because of their effect on muscle contraction.

However, their role goes well beyond the cosmetic realm, and includes their presence in the human pancreas.

Obese patients

Dr Colin Rickman and his team are observing snare proteins in pancreatic beta-cells, the highly specialised cells that release insulin to try and stabilise blood glucose levels.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the beta-cells cannot cope with the prolonged high glucose levels of some obese patients and so secrete less insulin. The beta-cells lose both mass and function, but the reasons for this have always been unclear.

The Heriot-Watt team hopes to answer these questions by observing snare proteins in the cell for the first time, pinpointing their exact location in an area equivalent to a ten-thousandth of a human hair.

Dr Rickman said: "This is the first time these proteins have ever been observed in such detail. Ultimately this could lead to new methods of diagnosis, prevention of the cells' failure that leads to diabetes and also treatments for Type 2 diabetes."

It is estimated that five million people will have diabetes in the UK by 2025.

More on this story

Around the BBC