Nerve cells: This is how insulin can control the metabolism in the brain

Dhe brain plays a central role in regulating fat metabolism. The Max Planck Researcher Jens Claus Brüning has deciphered how nerve cells react to insulin and what consequences diabetes has on the brain.

WORLD: They research the effects diabetes has on the brain. What is the booth?

Jens Claus Brüning: The hormone insulin is released by the pancreas when the blood sugar level rises in order to lower it. Three organs play a central role: muscle and fat tissue and the liver. Insulin increases the absorption of sugar in muscles and fat. It inhibits the production of new sugar in the liver. Overall, this leads to a drop in blood sugar levels. There are also receptors for insulin in many other organs, especially in the brain.

WORLD: How did you proceed?

Brüning: To investigate their significance, we genetically modified mice so that they no longer have any insulin receptors in the brain. We were able to show that in these animals the insulin can no longer lower the blood sugar level as effectively as in normal animals. In addition, they become overweight. We have thus proven that insulin also has effects on the central nervous system. We were also able to identify those nerve networks in the brain that are influenced by insulin.

WORLD: So far, metformin has primarily been used as a diabetes drug?

Brüning: Yes, this is the most common. There have been other diabetes drugs for several years. They work reasonably well, but they do not give satisfactory results in all patients. Therefore, a new active principle is very welcome. New combination therapies are then also conceivable.

WORLD: What are the other drugs?


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