Type 2 diabetes is a disorder of the metabolism. People with the disorder are not able to convert the sugar in their blood into energy. This is because they do not produce enough insulin, which results in excess glucose in their blood, combined with a condition known as ‘insulin resistance’ where muscles become resistant to the effects of insulin. The majority of diabetics nationwide suffer from type 2 diabetes, with more than half a million Australians estimated to be suffering from the disorder.
Type 2 diabetes results from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Although there is a strong genetic predisposition towards the disease, risk is greatly increased when associated with factors such as high blood pressure, excess weight or obesity, insufficient physical activity and poor diet.
The number one risk factor for type 2 diabetes is obesity. Overcoming obesity and type 2 diabetes is difficult because the natural control mechanisms that maintain the body’s energy balance are impaired. For these patients, new treatments need to be developed.
The major focus of SVI research is an enzyme known as AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) which acts as the body’s fuel gauge. AMP kinase regulates the burning and storage of fats and sugars, and affects the levels of sugars, fats and cholesterol in the blood. SVI researchers are investigating the effects of AMPK at the whole body and single cell level to develop therapies that may benefit the 500,000 Australians living with type 2 diabetes.