Researchers in the Hughes Lab have discovered a new mode of communication among pancreatic islet cells. Primary cilia are cellular antennae that transmit signals from the extracellular environment to the cell body. Hughes and colleagues generated cilia-less beta cells and find that this led to altered metabolism and diabetes in mice. This is akin to human ciliopathy syndromes where individuals with cilia mutations develop early-onset diabetes.
In collaboration with diabetes researchers Fumi Urano and David Piston, the Hughes team went on to discover roles of primary cilia in beta cell mass maintenance and islet cell crosstalk. These results pave the way for future diabetes therapies based on primary cilia modulation.