Dr Mark Evans, Department of Medicine and Institute of Metabolic Science, collaborated with researchers in Exeter to study how the specialised hexokinase, glucokinase, works in glucose-sensing cells in body to detect hypoglycemia (low blood glucose). Reporting in Molecular Metabolism, they found that mice and humans with molecular reductions in glucokinase action have increased counter-regulatory hormone responses to hypoglycemia.
Hypoglycemia is a major fear for people with insulin-treated type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The body normally switches off insulin secretion and then releases glucagon and adrenaline to counteract a falling glucose. Using a combination of human and targeted mouse models, they found that glucokinase-mediated hypoglycemia-sensing in pancreatic beta-cells, brain control changes in insulin and adrenaline (epinephrine) respectively with glucagon release likely controlled by glucokinase in pancreatic alpha-cells.