Zinc, Your Liver, and Diabetes: A Curious Triad of the Diabetic Clinic


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Current study opens up new treatment possibilities for Type-2-Diabetes (Photo Courtesy: Jill A. Brown / Flickr (CC-A))

Current study opens up new treatment possibilities for Type-2-Diabetes. Image by Jill A. Brown

Zinc and Diabetes: Future Therapies

Our bodies mediate this inter-organ communication selectively in the pancreatic ß-cells, with the gene SLC30A8 encoding these ZnT8 transporters. This process varies in individuals, thanks to the SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) mutations. We might see these results put to use, highlighting this genetic clue, in future to treat Type II Diabetes in new ways.

Because of the SNP variations, Fujitani gives a hope that, “novel therapy for T2D may become feasible by manipulating ZnT8-regulated hepatic insulin clearance.”  He adds that, “Our research provides critical evidence that ZnT8 can be a good target for drug development this molecule leads to a selective manipulation of beta cell function without possible adverse effects on other organs.

Alan Attie, at the University of Wisconsin, added accompanying commentary to this article in the same issue of JCI. He, as an expert not involved in the current study, tells Decoded Science, “This is the first study to show that zinc affects insulin clearance, it is a new role for zinc [it] has potential implications for the regulation of insulin levels.

Our study […] probably accelerates research on the role of zinc signals in the pathogenesis of various life-style related diseases, such as obesity or atherosclerosis, besides diabetes, may attract increased attention to zinc transporters as potential therapeutic targets for various life-style related diseases,” speculates Fujitani, on the future of this study.

Phenotyping to Understand Diabetes

Studies such as this illustrate the need of in-depth phenotyping on lifestyle diseases like diabetes. It appears that this study opens up many other questions that surround the role of zinc in health and diseases.


Motoyuki Tamaki et. al. The diabetes-susceptible gene SLC30A8/ZnT8 regulates hepatic insulin clearance(2013). Journal of Clinical Investigation. Accessed October 13, 2013.

Thomas V. O’Halloran, Melkam Kebede, Steven J. Philips, Alan D. Attie. Zinc, insulin, and the liver: a ménage à trois(2013). Journal of Clinical Investigation. Accessed October 13, 2013.

MedlinePlus Supplements. Zinc. (2013). Accessed October 13, 2013.

Office of Dietary Supplements. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Zinc(2013). Accessed October 13, 2013.

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