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Neonatal Diabetes: From Molecule to Therapy

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Whether you eat a whole box of chocolates or fast for the day, the pancreatic beta-cells ensure that your blood glucose level remains relatively constant by regulating the release of insulin from the pancreatic beta-cells. Diabetes results when insulin release is inadequate and blood glucose levels chronically rise. ATP -sensitive potassium (KATP) channels play a vitally important role in regulating insulin secretion by coupling cellular energy metabolism to membrane electrical activity. As a result, mutations in KATP channel genes result in insulin secretory disorders, such as neonatal diabetes and hyperinsulinism.

This lecture will describe how the KATP channel regulates insulin secretion and how dysfunctional channel activity can result in either too much or too little insulin release. It will show how understanding KATP channel function has enabled many patients born with neonatal diabetes to switch from insulin injections to drug therapy, with considerable improvement in both their clinical condition and quality of life. It will also discuss why some KATP channel mutations cause neurological disorders. Finally, it will show how a mouse model of neonatal diabetes has provided fresh insight into the deleterious effects of high blood glucose on pancreatic beta-cells and the extent to which these changes can be reversed.

Professor Ashcroft is the Royal Society GlaxoSmithKline Research Professor at the University Laboratory of Physiology, Oxford and a Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford. She holds BA, PhD and ScD degrees from Cambridge University and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1999. Professor Ashcroft has also authored popular science books including Life at the Extremes: The Science of Survival and The Spark of Life: Electricity in the Human Body. In 2012 she was one of the five winners of the L’Oreal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science.

This talk is part of the Stokes Society, Pembroke College series.

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