How our nerves regulate insulin secretion

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Per-Olof Berggren, Wallenberg Scholar 2012, is professor of experimental endocrinology at Karolinska Institutet. He has for many years studied the system of signals that regulate the release of insulin, research that has led to several revolutionary discoveries.

Per-Olof Berggren researches into one of the most common and widespread diseases: diabetes. His work is devoted to identifying the signal pathways at a molecular level that regulate insulin release from our pancreatic beta cells under normal conditions in order to understand why they become dysfunctional at the onset of diabetes. One of his discoveries is that the Islets of Langerhans, the part of the pancreas where the cells are located, is different in mice and humans in terms of both structure and function.

Two studies were published last year, which showed that there is a fundamental difference in the nerve supply in the beta cells, a discovery that might be of great importance in the process of producing new drugs for diabetes.

New method enables advanced studies

Professor Berggrens research group has also established a sophisticated method of studying in detail the function of insulin-secreting human and mouse beta cells and their long-term survival in the living organism. The cells can then be studied under conditions where both blood supply and nerve contact is available. This is necessary for finding new, more specific and effective treatment options for diabetes and its complications.

"Im delighted to receive this honour and the financial support that comes with it," says Professor Berggren. "It means that my group and I can concentrate on our research and invest more time in its future."