Researchers from the US and the UK have located a previously unidentified pathway buried deep within the brain that helps to sense blood glucose levels.


The hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) was found in the parabrachial nucleus region of the brain. It plays a crucial role in sensing hypoglycaemia and initiating a series of responses in the body to help raise blood glucose.

The study in mice found that when blood glucose levels dropped too low, CCK blocked another hormone called leptin, which holds back the blood glucose-raising response when blood glucose is normal. By blocking leptin, CCK started a series of events leading to glucagon and glycogen release, and normalisation of blood glucose levels.

CCK plays a role in appetite and anxiety, but its role in regulating blood glucose levels was unknown until now. This new discovery could allow treatments that target CCK to be developed to help boost the body’s defence system against hypoglycaemia in people with type 1 diabetes.

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