An enzyme called AMPK has long been thought to hold the key to treating many of the most common diseases affecting our society, including cancer, type 2 diabetes, and neurodegeneration.
AMPK controls the ability of cells to match growth rate with the availability of energy and nutrients – a critical requirement for all living organisms. It functions as the ‘fuel gauge’ of the cell, speeding up cell growth when nutrients are abundant and slowing cell growth when nutrients are scarce.
But despite 40 years of research, we only have a rudimentary understanding of how AMPK is controlled to perform its normal functions. We need to learn more to enable us to exploit its potential as a target for new treatment strategies.