Biologists have found that a key protein that regulates the biological clocks of mammals also regulates glucose production in the liver and that altering the levels of this protein can improve the health of diabetic mice.

Their discovery, detailed in the online publication of the journal Nature Medicine, provides an entirely new biochemical approach for scientists to develop treatments for obesity and type 2 diabetes. It also raises the interesting possibility that some of the rise in diabetes in the United States and other major industrialized countries could be a consequence of disturbances in sleep-wake cycles from our increasingly around-the-clock lifestyles.

"We know that mice that don’t have good biological clocks tend to develop diabetes and obesity," said Steve Kay, dean of the Division of Biological Sciences at UC San Diego and one of the lead authors of the research study. "And we know that mice that have developed diabetes and obesity tend not to have very good biological clocks. This reciprocal relationship between circadian rhythm and the maintenance of a constant supply of glucose in the body had been known for some time. But what we found that’s so significant is that a particular biological clock protein, cryptochrome, is actually regulating how the hormone that regulates glucose production in the liver works in a very specific way."