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Published on : Feb 20, 2018

For years, scientists and clinicians have been focusing on understanding the role of viruses and bacteria in human disease. Study on insulin-like hormones produced by these microbes may be new and markedly interesting avenue in the area of microbial endocrinology. Knowing their role is key to unearthing biological mechanisms responsible for triggering autoimmune reactions causing diabetes and various cancer types. Intrigued by this, scientists at Joslin Diabetes Center at Boston, Massachusetts have discovered four viruses that produce insulin-like hormones and can play a potential role in infecting humans with cancer and diabetes, particularly type 1 diabetes. The viruses with insulin-like sequences have an active role in fish and amphibians, but their impact on mammals has been contestable.

The team of researchers gleaned through massive public research databases to analyze the role of peptides, small versions of proteins, and conducted experiments in rodents and human cells. The study was collaborated by a researcher at Indiana University where viral insulin-like peptides (VILPs) were synthesized in the lab. Their work was published recently in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Viral Insulin-Like Peptides Play Vital Role in Autoimmune Reactions for Type 1 Diabetes

The scientists observed in the experiments that VLIPs indeed have a critical role to play in signaling pathways in cells triggering adverse insulin action by binding to human insulin receptors. Of note, when the investigators injected VLIPs in mice, they showed a lower level of blood glucose. To get the results in context, the researchers are expanding their search to sequence more viruses producing human-like hormones—as there over 300,000 of them that can infect mammals. These molecules, researchers believe, can have potential role in triggering autoimmune reactions causing type 1 diabetes. Other metabolic conditions characterizing the improper management of insulin by body, such as type 2 diabetes and obesity, also could respond to these viral peptides, adds on of the researchers.

The results of the research could pave way for pharmaceutical companies in helping them develop novel synthesized human insulin, which may help in better management of diabetes and autoimmune diseases.