Search Menu Globe Arrow Right Close
discoveries magazine

The Diabetes Connection

Illustration: James Worrell

While cutting off specific nerves to the kidney might seem destructive, research at Cedars-Sinai has shown it actually could improve insulin’s effectiveness in the liver and have a positive outcome for diabetic patients.

In a healthy body, the pancreas makes enough insulin to keep the liver’s manufacture of glucose under control. But diabetes disrupts that balance, leading the liver to overproduce glucose. The mechanisms behind this breakdown are unknown. Investigators at Cedars-Sinai have found an important clue: The kidneys and liver communicate with each other to set glucose levels.

Malini Iyer, PhD, is the lead author of the study conducted at the Bergman Laboratory, led by Richard Bergman, PhD, director of the Cedars-Sinai Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute and the Alfred Jay Firestein Chair in Diabetes Research. The researchers incapacitated nerves connecting the livers and kidneys of laboratory animals on a high-fat diet. The action dramatically improved liver insulin resistance — a prediabetic condition.

The team’s next step is to pinpoint the most effective method for surgically silencing nerves in the kidneys of humans, then begin investigating the procedure’s potential for treating diabetic patients.