Swedish researchers have developed a new technique for monitoring the development of insulin resistance in mice.

Insulin resistance, which is closely linked with type 2 diabetes, occurs when the body stops responding properly to the insulin it produces. This leads to blood glucose levels being higher than normal. Insulin resistance is also associated with heart disease and metabolic syndrome.

Scientists at the Karolinska Institutet believe their findings could uncover new information on the mechanics of insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance

In a previous study, the researchers observed that insulin-producing beta cells are targeted by insulin resistance. Before this new discovery, it was hard to monitor insulin resistance because the cells are located in the pancreas and “not accessible for direct monitoring”, according to lead author Meike Paschen.

The novel solution to this problem is a combination of fluorescent lights and islet transplantation. Paschen explained: “By equipping beta-cells with a fluorescent biosensor that reports on insulin resistance and transplanting these reporter islets into the anterior chamber of the eyes of mice, we are now able to study beta-cell insulin sensitivity over months in the living mouse.”

By using the eye as a natural body-window, the researchers can non-invasively monitor insulin resistance in islet cells.

Professor Per-Olof Berggren, who co-led the study, added: “This technique allows monitoring of cell type specific insulin sensitivity or resistance in real-time in the context of whole body insulin resistance during progression and intervention of disease.”

The findings are published in Scientific Reports.