Isabella Artner

Isabella Artner

Hjelt grant holder 2018, Lund university

Nicotine and beta cell function in health and disease

Why smoking and diabetes is a bad combination

Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for developing type 2-diabetes. It is known to raise blood sugar levels and increase the risk for serious complications. The underlying mechanisms remain unknown, but Isabella Artner at Lund University aims to find out.

People who smoke are 30-40 percent more likely to develop type 2-diabetes than non smokers. People with any type of diabetes have more difficulties controlling their blood sugar levels than non smokers. Smokers with diabetes have higher risks for serious complications, including heart and kidney disease, poor blood flow in the legs and feet that can lead to infections and ulcers, retinopathy (an eye disease that can cause blindness) and neuropathy (damaged nerves to the arms and legs that causes numbness, pain, weakness, and poor coordination).

The benefits of quitting smoking are thus huge.

Nicotine is the addictive substance in cigarettes and chewing tobacco. Research has shown that nicotine decreases insulin sensitivity in muscles and fat tissue, but also reduces the function of insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas. However the mechanisms underlying nicotine’s effect on the beta cell have not been determined yet.

– Our earlier results show that nicotine reduces insulin release from beta cells and affects beta cell development during early life in animal models. We aim to determine the signaling pathways activated by nicotine in beta cells and to study the effect of nicotine exposure in healthy and overweight animal models, Isabella Artner says.

Next step would be to investigate if the mechanisms are the same in humans.

– Understanding how nicotine influences beta cell function in diabetes development is of considerable clinical interest since smoking and tobacco use are still common in Scandinavia and the rest of the world. Nicotine treatment is widely used as smoking cessation treatment.

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