Type 2 diabetes is a widespread metabolic disorder that is on the rise in the UK. Reduced production of the hormone insulin by specialised cells in the pancreas called beta cells, and resistance of the body to insulin contribute to the development of the disease. Type 2 diabetes is a significant economic burden to the NHS and increases the frequency of other diseases such as hypertension and stroke. Understanding the mechanisms that contribute to the progression of type 2 diabetes may uncover novel therapeutic approaches.
Many mediators, such as hormones, control the functions of cells throughout the body by interacting with proteins present on the cell surface, called G protein-coupled receptors. G protein-coupled receptors allow cells to communicate with their environment. The accessibility of these proteins on the cell surface and their distribution in specific tissues make them excellent drug targets: >30% of current approved drugs target G protein-coupled receptors. My team are currently interested in a particular G protein-coupled receptor, namely GPR75, which is found on pancreatic beta cells and thus may have a role in insulin release and maintaining normal blood sugar. However, no mediator has yet been identified that interacts with GPR75. The aim of our research is to determine if GPR75 production is altered in models of diabetes and uncover its function in the beta cell. Moreover, we will develop an assay to identify novel compounds that interact with this receptor and may become new drugs. Investigating GPR75 may advance understanding and even treatment of type 2 diabetes.