Diabetes and the Potential Impact of AMPK

If you’ve ever watched a survival type show on television then you know there are extremes in food availability that people endure and they seem to come out of these issues safely. There is a chromosome protein that acts as a rescue device and the discovery of how it functions may have a huge impact on how diabetes is treated.

According to Medical News Today, “Researchers at McGill University and University of Pennsylvania have uncovered new insights into how a protein known as the AMP-activated protein kinase, or AMPK, a master regulator of metabolism, controls how our cells generate energy.”

Imagine if you will, a drill sergeant in the Army. He commissions soldiers to go from one place to the next to fulfill the needs of the overall operation. He’s in charge of many soldiers and each is told what to do and when to do it. This is a picture of what AMPK is like in the human body.

If the AMPK determines the body’s resources are not required for energy then it will not willingly allocated energy resources without just cause.


McGill Professor Russell Jones is quoted in Medical News Today as saying, “”The discovery that AMPK goes directly to the DNA to affect gene transcription is a breakthrough in our understanding how signals from outside the cell are transmitted to change gene expression. It is like an electrical circuit. We have figured out how AMPK mediates the connection.”

If you’re wondering why this is big news the answer lies in what medical science can potentially do with this information. They may be able to effectively send new orders to the AMPK allowing the use of energy cells to be used in metabolism – even during times when the AMPK would not normally do so.

As a society we’ve encountered an alteration in our overall lifestyle. Where once we were more active in physical labor today we are much more sedentary so our bodies are not used to the idea of needing to burn added fat or energy cells.

Medical News Today helps explain the process. “AMPK’s main role is to sense cell stress. In this study, cells were stressed with ultraviolet radiation and low levels of glucose, a common source of cell energy. In the sequence of events after stress, AMPK picks up the cell-stress signal and travels to the nucleus to bind to the tumor suppressor gene p53. This in turn, causes a phosphate to be added to a histone near the p21 gene, which activates transcription. The function of the p21 protein is to stop or slow down the cell cycle.”

If medical science can simulate cell stress then it may be possible to induce a more effective use of glucose and a fat burning metabolism as it works to encourage AMPK to regulate a change that gains benefit from an effective use of blood glucose.

Medical News Today reports, “The work conducted by the researchers holds promise for new therapies for a number of diseases including diabetes and cancer. For example, AMPK is a target of metformin, the most commonly prescribed drug for the treatment of Type II diabetes. By understanding how AMPK can directly change gene expression, this may lead to the identification of new disease-associated targets and potential therapies.”

In the end this is one more potential therapy that may result in improved care for those who live with diabetes.