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Neurons that Monitor and Regulate Blood Sugar Levels are Discovered by Researchers



New research has found neurons inside the mind that identify and answer changes in the level of sugar within the bloodstream.

According to the authors of the study, having a better understanding of how this blood sugar detection system and these neurocircuits operate would give researchers and doctors a better understanding of how our brains regulate our blood sugar and possibly how to target them therapeutically to treat metabolic diseases like diabetes and obesity.

On June 22, the study was published online in Diabetes.

“We’ve known for a long time that many neurons can detect sugar locally within the brain,” said Dr. Michael Schwartz, an endocrinologist with the University of Washington School of Medicine and co-director of the UW Medicine Diabetes Institute. “What is new, however, is the evidence that a subset of neurons located in the hypothalamus can sense and respond to sugar in the bloodstream itself, analogous to the cells in the pancreas that secrete insulin.”

In this study, scientists had the option to screen both glucose levels and the movement of neurons within the hypothalamus of cognizant mice in real time. They discovered that the activity of this subset of neurons decreases rapidly when blood sugar levels rise. Scientists hypothesize that these neurons recognize and answer variety in glucose communicated by tangible neurons that supply the vasculature (as opposed to sugar levels in the mind, which change substantially more leisurely), Schwartz noted. This tangible data is then communicated to at least one neurocircuits that control the glucose level related to the pancreas, which produces insulin for the body.

This is important on a clinical level because, according to Schwartz, when treating diabetic patients, clinicians frequently discover that the patients’ system is actively maintaining an elevated blood sugar level, likely “because that’s where the brain thinks the blood sugar level is supposed to be.”

“For example, if a normal blood sugar is 100, a patient with diabetes may well have a blood sugar above 300,” he said. “If it’s been at that elevated level for days or weeks, and if you suddenly lower it back to 100, the brain will think that’s too low, and will try to increase blood sugar level again.”

According to Schwartz’s conclusion, this evidence that diabetes is associated with an impaired brain ability to sense blood sugar levels suggests that reversing this kind of sensing defect may enable the brain to control blood sugar in a more appropriate manner in the future.


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