A new therapeutic application for a disease that affects one in eleven people across the world and has no cure has been discovered by Canadian researchers by identifying how vitamin K helps prevent diabetes. A few studies have previously proposed a link between a reduced intake of vitamin K and an expanded risk of diabetes. However, until now, the biological mechanisms by which vitamin K prevents diabetes have been a mystery.
The team from the Universite de Montreal (UdeM) tracked down a possibly protective role of vitamin K and gamma-carboxylation in beta cells. Micronutrient Vitamin K is well-known for its role in blood clotting, particularly gamma-carboxylation, an essential enzymatic reaction.
The study, published in the journal Cell Reports, confirmed that the chemicals engaged with gamma-carboxylation and in this way in the use of vitamin K were available in large quantities in pancreatic beta cells, the very cells that produce the valuable insulin that controls blood sugar levels.
“Diabetes is known to be caused by a reduction in the number of beta cells or by their inability to produce enough insulin, hence our keen interest in this novel finding,” said Mathieu Ferron, associate research professor of medicine at UdeM.
“We were able to identify a new gamma-carboxylated protein called ERGP,” added Julie Lacombe, who conducted the work in Ferron`s laboratory.
“Our study shows that this protein plays an important role in maintaining physiological levels of calcium in beta cells in order to prevent a disturbance of insulin secretion. Finally, we showed that vitamin K through gamma-carboxylation is essential for ERGP to perform its role.”
This is the first time in 15 years that a novel vitamin K-dependent protein has been distinguished, opening a new field of research in this area.
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