Understanding the role of hormones in diabetes progression

Dr Greg Kowalski is working to develop a better understanding of the development and progression of diabetes by examining the complex ways that different hormones interact inside the body.

Funded through a Diabetes Australia Research Program (DARP) grant, Dr Kowalski is investigating how the pancreatic hormones insulin and glucagon can simultaneously regulate glucose, amino acid and fatty acid metabolism in healthy young adults.

He wants to determine if these processes are altered early on in people who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, potentially offering a clue to early detection of the disease.  

Type 1 and 2 diabetes are conditions characterised by an inappropriate production of insulin and glucagon, which leads to impaired metabolic, and in particular blood glucose control.

This means it is critical to understand how these two hormones interact in order to develop strategies that lead to improved blood glucose management.  

“By understanding the complex actions of these hormones, we hope to develop strategies to improve the health and quality of life of people with diabetes,” Dr Kowalski explained.

He recently established a novel feeding approach that will be used to investigate pancreatic insulin and glucagon secretion as well as action in both lean and overweight young adults.

“Participants involved in this study will undergo detailed testing in order to determine how liver, muscle and adipose tissue metabolism adapt to a simultaneous physiological rise in insulin and glucagon,” Dr Kowalski said.

This project follows on from Dr Kowalski’s previous DARP project, which found that through the combined actions of insulin and glucagon, the human body is able to maintain stable blood glucose levels when challenged with large amounts of dietary protein.

The study provided unique and evolutionary insight into the way various organs – such as the pancreas, liver, adipose tissue and muscle simultaneously work together to control sugar, protein and fat metabolism.