Fluorescence method shows promise for noninvasive insulin resistance monitoring

A technique involving fluorescence makes it possible to monitor insulin resistance in a noninvasive manner over time in mice.

Content Dam Bow Online Articles 2016 02 Karolinka Web

Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet (Solna, Sweden) have developed a technique involving fluorescence that makes it possible to monitor insulin resistance in a noninvasive manner over time in mice. The new method could be used to assess insulin resistance during progression and intervention of metabolic diseases.

Related: Towards noninvasive detection of diabetic neuropathy

Insulin resistance is a key contributing factor to a variety of metabolic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. A major challenge is to be able to monitor this process dynamically in individual cell types of insulin target tissues, such as fat, liver, brain, kidney, or pancreatic islets in living organisms.

The researchers have previously shown that the insulin-secreting beta cell—situated in the pancreatic islet of Langerhans—not only produces the hormone insulin, but is also a target for insulin signaling. Consequently, beta-cell insulin resistance can contribute to the development and progression of type 2 diabetes.

“The problem is that the islets are embedded in the pancreas and therefore not accessible for direct monitoring," says lead author Meike Paschen, a doctoral student at the Rolf Luft Research Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology, Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery at Karolinska Institutet. "However, by equipping beta cells with a fluorescent biosensor that reports on insulin resistance and transplanting these reporter islets into the anterior chamber of the eyes of mice, we are now able to study beta-cell insulin sensitivity over months in the living mouse.”

This novel technique utilizes the cornea as a natural body-window to allow the investigators to noninvasively monitor insulin resistance in the Langerhans islet transplanted to the anterior chamber of the eye. The biosensor expressed by the engrafted islets makes it possible for the researchers to differentiate insulin-resistant cells from those that have a normal response to insulin. The biosensor signal is measured noninvasively by fluorescence microscopy at single-cell resolution in a living animal.

Content Dam Bow Online Articles 2016 02 Karolinka Web
Per-Olof Berggren, professor at the Karolinska Institutet. (Credit: Stefan Zimmerman)

"This technique allows monitoring of cell-type-specific insulin sensitivity or resistance in real time in the context of whole-body insulin resistance during progression and intervention of disease," says Professor Per-Olof Berggren, who led the current study together with Associate Professor Ingo Leibiger at the Rolf Luft Research Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology.

Full details of the work appear in the journal Scientific Reports; for more information, please visit http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep21448.

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