When we eat, food is broken down and the levels of sugar (glucose) in our blood rises. To keep the amount of sugar in the blood at the right level, the pancreas produces a hormone called insulin. Insulin tells cells around the body – particularly muscle, liver, and fat cells – to take up more glucose, to reduce blood sugar levels.
Around four million people in the UK are livingwith diabetes. This means their blood sugar can be too high, which can lead to serious health problems. 90% of these people have type 2 diabetes, where either the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin, or the body does not respond to insulin as it should. When muscle cells stop responding to insulin, it is called ‘muscle insulin resistance’, and is one of the first signs of type 2 diabetes.
Research into diabetes and muscle insulin resistance has often used animals and animal-derived cells. Although animal research was used to develop the first insulin therapies to treat diabetes which dramatically improved survival rates, animal muscles and human muscles do not behave in the same way. We still don’t know exactly how muscle insulin resistance occurs in humans. We need to find new ways to study muscle insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes that are more relevant to humans.
“With greater knowledge and technologies, we are able to move away from using animals and animal cells and focus on models of the body that use human cells in our experiments.”
Dr Andy Wilhelmsen.