Breaking News
December 12, 2018 - Macrophage cells could help repair the heart following a heart attack, study finds
December 12, 2018 - Researchers develop new system for efficiently producing human norovirus
December 12, 2018 - New artificial intelligence-based system to differentiate between different types of cancer cells
December 11, 2018 - Healthy Lifestyle Lowers Odds of Breast Cancer’s Return
December 11, 2018 - New research identifies two genes linked to serious congenital heart condition
December 11, 2018 - NIH Director talks science, STEM careers with preteens
December 11, 2018 - Disabling a Cellular Antivirus System Could Improve Gene Therapy
December 11, 2018 - New tool swiftly provides accurate measure of patients’ cognitive difficulties
December 11, 2018 - Without Obamacare penalty, think it’ll be nice to drop your plan? Better think twice
December 11, 2018 - Researchers capture high-resolution X-ray and NMR image of key immune regulator
December 11, 2018 - Natural flavonoid is effective at treating leishmanisis infections, study shows
December 11, 2018 - Avoidant grievers unconsciously monitor and block mind-wandering contents, study shows
December 11, 2018 - Study identifies how hantaviruses infect lung cells
December 11, 2018 - Improving PTSD care through genetics
December 11, 2018 - Dermatology providers show interest in recommending cannabinoids to patients
December 11, 2018 - Researchers to study effects of electroconvulsive therapy on Alzheimer’s patients with aggression
December 11, 2018 - Four dried fruits have lower glycemic index than starchy foods, study finds
December 11, 2018 - Optimization of drug dose sizes can reduce pharmaceutical wastage
December 11, 2018 - Ultrarestrictive opioid prescribing strategy linked with reduction in number of pills dispensed
December 11, 2018 - PET scans to optimize tuberculosis meningitis treatments and personalize care, study finds
December 11, 2018 - Researchers aim to identify and target high blood pressure indicators
December 11, 2018 - Researchers identify immune cell subset that may drive chronic inflammation
December 11, 2018 - Ezogabine treatment reduces motor neuron excitability in ALS patients, study shows
December 11, 2018 - One implant, two prices. It depends on who’s paying.
December 11, 2018 - Standardizing feeding practices improves growth trends for micro-preemies
December 11, 2018 - COPD Tied to Obesity in Male, Female Never-Smokers
December 11, 2018 - Flossing: Information for Caregivers
December 11, 2018 - Does breastfeeding hormone protect against type 2 diabetes?
December 11, 2018 - Educating future doctors to prescribe physical activity for their patients
December 11, 2018 - Krystal 2000 microplate design improves fluorescence and luminescence measurement
December 11, 2018 - FDA clears mobile medical app to help increase retention in recovery program for opioid use disorder
December 11, 2018 - Overcoming Challenges in High-Speed Centrifugation Experiments
December 11, 2018 - Study shows link between neighborhoods’ socioeconomic status and dietary choices
December 11, 2018 - Lower BMI before obesity surgery predicts greater post-operative weight loss, study finds
December 11, 2018 - Obesity May Be Driving Rise in Uterine Cancers
December 11, 2018 - Antioxidants may prevent cognitive impairment in diabetes
December 11, 2018 - Study discovers link between meditation and how individuals respond to feedback
December 11, 2018 - Researchers identify potential diagnostic tool for Alzheimer’s disease
December 11, 2018 - Oral cancer prognostic signature identified
December 11, 2018 - How Can I Find Out What Caused My Miscarriage?
December 11, 2018 - Novel personalized medicine tool for assessing inherited colorectal cancer syndrome risk developed
December 11, 2018 - Study uncovers 11 new genes associated with epilepsy
December 11, 2018 - Filling research gaps could help develop more disability-inclusive workplaces
December 11, 2018 - Cartilage tissue engineering brings good news for patients with cartilage defects
December 11, 2018 - Novel 3D printing workflow helps predict leaky heart valves
December 11, 2018 - Imagination can help overcome fear and anxiety-related disorders, shows study
December 11, 2018 - Are caries linked to political regime?
December 11, 2018 - Leader in Diabetes Clinical Trials Wins Naomi Berrie Award
December 11, 2018 - Scientists discover cellular mechanism that triggers pneumonia in humans
December 11, 2018 - Increasing mental health problems related to drug use in over 55’s
December 11, 2018 - High-intensity interval exercise could help combat cognitive dysfunction in obese people
December 11, 2018 - Annual flu shot can save lives of heart failure patients
December 11, 2018 - Researchers compare health outcomes for VA and non-VA hospitals
December 11, 2018 - Recommendations Developed for Psoriatic Arthritis Treatment
December 11, 2018 - Genetic analysis links obesity with diabetes, coronary artery disease
December 11, 2018 - Study shows that having genetic information can affect how the body responds
December 11, 2018 - UNAIDS Report: 9 Million Are Likely HIV Positive And Don't Know It
December 11, 2018 - Lund University researchers succeed in obtaining dendritic cells by direct reprogramming
December 11, 2018 - Breast tumors recruit bone marrow cells to boost their growth, study reveals
December 11, 2018 - Updated breast cancer screening guideline highlights importance of shared decision-making
December 11, 2018 - EHR-related stress associated with physician burnout
December 11, 2018 - AHA: 12-Year-Old Heart Defect Survivor Inspires NFL Player’s Foundation
December 11, 2018 - Breast cancer patients who take heart drug with trastuzumab have less heart damage
December 11, 2018 - Providing aid to those humans – and animals – affected by the California fires
December 11, 2018 - Even without proof, CBD is finding a niche as a cure-all
December 11, 2018 - Drawing leads to better memory than writing
December 11, 2018 - Researchers report novel findings on plant hormone
December 10, 2018 - A Tale of Two Labels
December 10, 2018 - Triple combination cancer immunotherapy improves outcomes in preclinical melanoma model
December 10, 2018 - A 14-year-old explains what it’s like to get a new heart
December 10, 2018 - Team Players Honored with 2018 Baton Awards
December 10, 2018 - Global report highlights how the changing world is affecting children’s physical activity levels
December 10, 2018 - Genes play a role in physical activity and sleep
December 10, 2018 - DDT in Alaskan fish shown to increase risk of cancer
December 10, 2018 - Laws to curb use of cell phones have greatly reduced fatalities for motorcyclists
December 10, 2018 - Argenx Provides Detailed Data from Phase 2 Clinical Trial of Efgartigimod in Immune Thrombocytopenia and Phase 1/2 Clinical Trial of Cusatuzumab in Acute Myeloid Leukemia
December 10, 2018 - University of Maryland doctors treat first breast cancer patients with GammaPod radiotherapy
December 10, 2018 - The heartbeat seat: Demoing new well-being technologies in a car
December 10, 2018 - Leading Cancer Researcher to Direct Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center
December 10, 2018 - Researchers explore how glial cells develop in the brain from neural precursor cells
Scientists identify four viruses that can produce insulin-like hormones

Scientists identify four viruses that can produce insulin-like hormones

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

Every cell in your body responds to the hormone insulin, and if that process starts to fail, you get diabetes. In an unexpected finding, scientists at Joslin Diabetes Center have identified four viruses that can produce insulin-like hormones that are active on human cells. The discovery brings new possibilities for revealing biological mechanisms that may cause diabetes or cancer.

“Our research may help open up a new field that we might call microbial endocrinology,” says Emrah Altindis, PhD, a Joslin research fellow and lead author on a paper in the journal PNAS on the work. “We show that these viral insulin-like peptides can act on human and rodent cells. With the very large number of microbial peptides to which we are exposed, there is a novel window for host-microbe interactions. We hope that studying these processes will help us to better understand the role of microbes in human disease.”

“Indeed, the discovery of the viral insulin-like hormones raises the question of what their role might be in diabetes, as well as autoimmune disease, cancer and other metabolic conditions,” says C. Ronald Kahn, MD, Joslin’s chief academic officer and senior author on the paper.

The key idea for the investigation came when Altindis, whose previous research focused on creating vaccines against bacteria, attended a Joslin seminar that discussed potential causes of the autoimmune reaction that drives type 1 diabetes. He began to hypothesize whether bacteria or viruses could create insulin-like peptides (small versions of proteins) that could help to trigger the disease.

By analyzing large public research databases that hold viral genomic sequences, he and his colleagues at Joslin found that various viruses can produce peptides that are similar in whole or in part to 16 human hormones and regulatory proteins.

“What really caught our attention were four viruses that had insulin-like sequences,” says Kahn, who is also the Mary K. Iacocca Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

These viruses were from a family of viruses known to infect fish. To find out if they could be active in mammals, the Joslin team collaborated with Richard DiMarchi, professor of chemistry at Indiana University, whose lab chemically synthesized these viral insulin-like peptides (VILPs).

Experimenting in mouse and human cells, the scientists studied whether the VILPs could act like hormones. Their experiments proved that the VILPs could indeed bind to human insulin receptors and receptors for a closely related hormone called IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1). These are the critical proteins on the cells that tell them to take up glucose and to grow. Additionally, the peptides could stimulate all of the signaling pathways inside the cells that were stimulated by human insulin and IGF-1. And mice injected with the viral peptides exhibited lower levels of blood glucose, another sign of insulin action. Moreover, analysis of databases of viruses found in the human intestine showed evidence that humans are exposed to these viruses.

“These viruses are definitely known to infect fish and amphibians, but they are not known to infect humans,” Kahn points out. “However, it’s possible that humans get exposed to these viruses through just eating fish. Nobody has checked directly whether under some conditions the viruses could either infect cells or be at least partly absorbed through the gut intestine.”

The scientists now will broaden their search for other viruses that produce human-like hormones. “This finding is the tip of an iceberg,” Kahn says. “There are thought to be more than 300,000 viruses that can infect or be carried in mammals, and only 7,500 or so of these, or about 2.5%, have been sequenced. Thus, we certainly expect to find many more viral hormones, including more viral insulins, in the future.”

“This research also opens up a new aspect to study in type 1 diabetes and autoimmunity,” he says. “It may be that these or similar microbial insulin-like molecules could be an environmental trigger to start the autoimmune reaction in type 1 diabetes. On the other hand, you could also imagine that this might desensitize the immune response and could be protective.”

A similar question is open for metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and obesity, in which the body fails to respond properly to insulin. “You could envision that these viral peptides could either protect from or contribute to insulin resistance,” Kahn says.

These or similar viruses might also be a factor in certain human cancers. “If these viruses are inside the gut, could the VILPs they produce stimulate growth of gut cells so that you get polyps or tumors of the gut?” Kahn asks. “Or if they’re absorbed or become infectious, could they infect any organ in the body?”

Analyzing such viral peptides may eventually help drug companies to design new forms of synthesized human insulins. “We might be able to learn something, for example, about making insulins that don’t need refrigeration and can be stored for long periods of time, or insulins that are absorbed more quickly or degrade more slowly,” he suggests.

Given Altindis’s earlier research on infectious disease rather than in endocrinology, “our discovery gives an example of how work in one field can stimulate thought in another field,” Kahn adds. “It really underlines the importance of cross-fertilization in the scientific discovery process, which is so valuable but so underappreciated.”​​

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles