Research News

A new role for exosomes in type 2 diabetes

2. 11. 2017 | In healthy people, a type of exosomes – tiny structures secreted by cells to allow intercellular communication – prevent clumping of a protein that leads to type 2 diabetes. In patients with the disease, these vesicles don’t have the same ability. These are the results of a new study by AcademiaNet member Professor Pernilla Wittung Stafshede.
Professor Pernilla Wittung Stafshede
Bild vergrößern
(© Anna-Lena Lundqvist )


Professor Pernilla Wittung Stafshede

Proteins are the cell’s workhorses. These macromolecules are made up of long chains of amino acids which fold into specific three-dimensional structures. Sometimes, however, they fold incorrectly and aggregate into long fibres called amyloids. Once the amyloids accumulate, they can cause diseases. This happens, for example, in the brains of people with Alzheimer's (which develop amyloid plaques). Protein aggregation can also cause diabetes type 2, which is characterised by a deposition of islet amyloid polypeptide (IAPP) in the pancreas. Now, a team of scientists led by Professor Pernilla Wittung Stafshede has unearthed a previously unknown role of exosomes in the development of the disease.


“What we’ve found is that exosomes secreted by the cells in the pancreas stop that process in healthy people and protect them from type 2 diabetes, while the exosomes of diabetes patients do not,” says Professor Wittung Stafshede. What the study shows is that “healthy” exosomes bind the protein that causes diabetes on the outside, preventing it from aggregating. However, the results do not explain why. We also don’t know if type 2 diabetes is caused by “sick” exosomes or if the disease itself causes them to malfunction.


“The next step is to make controlled models of the exosomes, whose membranes contain lipids and proteins, to understand exactly what component affects the diabetes protein. If we can find which lipid or protein in the exosome membrane leads to that effect, and can work out the mechanism.”


The study is actually a part of industrial doctoral student Diana Ribeiro’s thesis work, and a collaboration between Chalmers University and the pharmaceutical company Astrazeneca.


“She [Ribeiro] came up with the idea for the project herself,” says Prof Wittung Stafshede, who is Ribeiro’s academic advisor at Chalmers. “She had done some research on exosomes before and I had read a bit about their potential. It’s a fairly new and unexplored field, and honestly I didn’t think the experiments would work. Diana had access to pancreatic cells through Astrazeneca – something we’d never had access to before – and she conducted the studies very thoroughly, and this led us to our discovery.”


  (© Christian Borg / AcademiaNet)

More information

Original article

Source

Testimonials

  1. Read what our members say about AcademiaNet.

No more excuses!

  1. Please download the brochure "No more excuses" and read more about female experts in Europe, and about AcademiaNet.

News

  1. Cell biologist Dr. Anne-Kathrin Classen awarded DFG Heisenberg grant

    The support from the German Research Foundation (DFG) is worth 500,000 €.

  2. Four AcademiaNet members among Royal Society Fellows and Foreign Members elected this year

    The accolade has been called the scientist equivalent of the lifetime achievement Oscar.

  3. “It’s a social norm that keeps girls out of science”

    Only about one third of students in STEM subjects are female. We spoke with Dr. Anne-Marie Imafidon who founded STEMettes to help young girls and women engage with STEM subjects. She is a strong supporter of young girls and women and a role model for many aspiring to have a career in science.

  4. Tiina Sikanen granted the Academy of Finland Award for Scientific Courage

    The pharmaceutical chemist was chosen for her multidisciplinary work on microchip biotechnology.

  5. Women are simply less visible

    Why are so few women awarded a Nobel Prize? The reasons are manifold and hinder female researchers at all stages of their careers. Countermeasures are only slowly taking effect.