International team tags a key brain pathway for hypoglycemia

Controlling hypoglycemia--or low blood sugar--remains a big challenge for a large group of diabetics. Now a transatlantic team of researchers says that they have identified a new pathway in the brain that plays a critical role in signaling hypoglycemia. And they add that it's a solid target for drug researchers working in the blockbuster field.

The pathway is called the parabrachial nucleus and it produces the brain hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) that works as a sensor for blood glucose level. When blood sugar drops too low, the hormone helps signal for a rebalance, according to the international team drawn from the University of Cambridge, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Chicago. The findings were published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

For many diabetics who suffer from repeated incidents of hypoglycemia, says the team, there's a growing lack of awareness about the threat of hypoglycemia, making this a potentially big focus for the drug developers at work in the field.

The next step in this process will be a focus on the cells that CCK interacts with to rebalance blood sugar as well as drugs that can influence the pathway.

"The discovery of the important function of this brain hormone raises the possibility of using drugs targeting the CCK system to boost defenses against hypoglycemia, the clinical syndrome that results from low blood sugar," says study author Dr. Martin G. Myers Jr., the Marilyn H. Vincent Professor in Diabetes Research at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Diabetes Center.

- here's the release
- get the research abstract

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