Guilt-free sugary treats may be on the horizon after scientists, including one of Indian-origin, have discovered an enzyme that can stop the toxic effects of sugar in various organs of the body.
The finding could lead to the development of therapeutics for obesity and type 2 diabetes, researchers said. The enzyme, named glycerol 3-phosphate phosphatase (G3PP), plays a central role in controlling glucose and fat utilisation.Led by doctors Marc Prentki and Murthy Madiraju, the research team has demonstrated that G3PP is able to detoxify excess sugar from the cells.
“When glucose is abnormally elevated in the body, glucose-derived glycerol-3 phosphate reaches excessive levels in cells, and exaggerated G3PP metabolism can damage various tissues,” said Prentki. “G3PP is able to breakdown a great proportion of this excess glycerol phosphate to glycerol and divert it outside the cell, thus protecting the insulin producing beta cells of pancreas and various organs from toxic effects of high glucose levels,” he added.
Mammalian cells use glucose and fatty acids as the main nutrients, which governs many physiological processes such as insulin secretion by beta cells, production of glucose in liver, storage of fat in adipose tissue and breakdown of nutrients for energy production. Derangement of these processes leads to obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
The beta cells sense changes in blood glucose levels and produce insulin according to body demand. However, when beta cells are presented with excess glucose and fatty acids, the same nutrients become toxic and damage them, leading to their dysfunction and diabetes. “By diverting glucose as glycerol, G3PP prevents excessive formation and storage of fat and it also lowers excessive production of glucose in liver,” said Madiraju. “It is extremely rare since the 1960s that a novel enzyme is discovered at the heart of metabolism of nutrients,” he said. (PTI)