Professor Ronald Evans will receive $1.2 million over four years as part of a Network Grant from the Larry L. Hillblom Foundation to examine a molecular pathway that regulates blood sugar and fat independent of insulin. The research will advance our understanding of type 2 diabetes and could lead to the development of new therapies for treating the disease. Other members of the team include Professors Jin Zhang and Alan Saltiel from the University of California San Diego.
Recently, the Evans lab discovered that a hormone called FGF1 regulates blood sugar (glucose) by inhibiting fat breakdown (lipolysis), and thus simultaneously lowers both blood glucose and fat. This effect is rapid and similar to how insulin works. While insulin acts through a regulatory switch called PDE3, Evans found that FGF1 uses a parallel pathway called PDE4. This finding is important as insulin action is greatly reduced in people with type 2 diabetes. The Evans study further shows that even when insulin action is blocked, FGF1 continues to control both lipolysis and blood glucose levels. Insulin resistance is considered to be a major problem and hard to control, so FGF1 represents a novel target for developing therapies for type 2 diabetes. Now, with funding from the Larry L. Hillblom Foundation, the group will examine the FGF1 pathway in more detail, explore where the pathway is located in the cell, and test how the pathway functions in different forms of diabetes.