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Beta cell function and left- or right-handedness

Beta cell function and left- or right-handedness

Also this week MedZine brings you the latest medical news on various medical specialisms. In this editorial two striking studies are highlighted. The first identifies a protein that is essential for maintaining beta cell function. The second describes genes that are important for left-right differences.

Nkx6.1 is important for beta cell functioning

Type 2 diabetes is characterized by impaired insulin secretion by pancreatic beta cells in response to a rise in blood glucose levels. Nkx6.1 is a transcription factor strongly expressed in beta cells and levels of Nkx6.1 are decreased in type 2 diabetes. In a publication in Cell Reports, Brandon and colleagues describe that Nkx6.1 is important for the proper functioning of beta cells. Loss of Nkx6.1 in mice leads to the rapid onset of diabetes. Studying the Nkx6.1-regulated genes in these mice shows that this protein is important for the control of insulin biosynthesis, insulin secretion and beta cell proliferation. Their findings support an emerging concept that glucose metabolism plays a critical role in beta cell proliferation. Over time, a subset of Nkx6.1-deficient beta cells acquired the molecular characteristics of somatostatin-producing delta cells, suggesting a link between impaired beta cell function and loss of cell identity.

Genes controlling left-right asymmetry linked to left-right handedness

Most people (90%) are right-handed. Humans are the only species to show such a strong bias in handedness. The cause of this bias remains largely a mystery. In a publication in PLoS Genetics, Brandler and colleagues describe a genome-wide association study meta-analysis for a measure of relative hand skill. The analysis was initially performed with individuals with dyslexia, because studies on dyslexia contain a test for relative hand skill. The analysis was replicated in a general population cohort giving the same results. The researcher found a correlation between handedness and genes that are involved in the establishment of left and right side in an embryo. The strongest association was found with the PCSK6 gene and disrupting this gene in mice causes defects in left-right asymmetry.

Sources: Eurekalert, Cell Reports and PLoS Genetics

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