Patients with type II diabetes don't respond properly to insulin. What's the solution? Well for the ETH Zurich researchers who just published a study in Science, the answer could be as simple as a blue light bath, says Not Exactly Rocket Science's Ed Yong. The researchers have been experimenting with manipulating genes with bursts of light. The blue light turns on the GLP-1 gene, which tells the pancreas to make more insulin, Yong says. The researcher began by adding the protein melanopsin, which controls the human body clock and is found in the retina, to human kidney cells. When melanopsin is exposed to blue light, it triggers the production of calcium. The team rewired the kidney cells so that the calcium production activated the NFAT gene, which can turn on other genes, Yong says. "By placing any gene under the control of NFAT, [a researcher] can switch it on for specific chunks of time using beams of blue," he adds. So they engineered the cells to put NFAT in control of GLP-1, impanted the cells under the skin of diabetic mice, put them under a blue light, and voila — higher insulin levels and lower blood sugar levels, Yong says. It's not a cure for diabetes yet, but it proves that different bursts of light could eventually be used as a technique in the clinic to treat different diseases.
Blue Light Special
Jun 24, 2011