Whenever you say insulin, you think of the two types of diabetes and treatments, but researchers at the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute (TGHRI) found a way to use the peptide hormone to boost the immune system.
So far, all research done on the role of insulin was on organs like the liver, muscle or fat, all conducted to see how it regulates blood sugar and how the body turns it into energy. However, until now, there wasn’t a study researching the impact of insulin on the immune system.
Insulin has a signaling pathway that, if activated, it can make T cells respond in the immune system, quickly dividing and secreting cytokines – proteins that activate the immune system.
Having a fast responding immune system would protect humans against deadly infections by immediately destroying microbes or infected cells. A wrong or weak immune system can end up in disorders or development of diseases.
Immune System Stimulated By Insulin
Assistant Professor, Dr. Dan Winer, one of the study researchers said:
“We have identified one of metabolism’s most popular hormones, specifically the insulin signalling pathway, as a novel ‘co-stimulatory’ driver of immune system function.”
The first author of the study, Dr. Sue Tsai says that they chose the T cells because they have a vital role in defending against infections. In their research, they studied how insulin regulates T cell function and what it makes them stop from responding to insulin.
Testing genetically engineered mice, the research team had mice with T cells that had no insulin receptor on them, making the insulin resistant. Under the H1N1 flu virus, the mice’s T cells couldn’t destroy the virus.
Dr. Tsai concluded that “in the future, we could harness this insulin signalling pathway to either boost the immune response to create vaccines, for example, or dampen it to heal inflammatory illnesses such as arthritis, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.”
The study was published in the journal Cell Metabolism.
Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere