In Search of Knowledge to Enable Development of Drugs to Prevent Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes

Posted on 17.12.2020

Jonas Borup Roland is working to understand the mechanisms behind raised and lowered insulin resistance in the muscles: his interest centres on GLUT4 transporters.

Some years back, Jonas Borup Roland MSc PhD contributed to a new finding that physical activity raises the content of GLUT4 transporters in insulin-responsive storage vesicles in the muscle cells. He also discovered that a higher level of GLUT4 transporter insertion in the muscle cells’ surface membrane results from insulin stimulation after physical activity than at rest.

‘But’, he now asks, ‘is it the case that reduced insulin-stimulated GLUT4 insertion in the surface membrane in an insulin-resistant muscle is conversely due to a reduced volume of GLUT4 in the insulin-responsive storage vesicles?

He produced the first result in his PhD project, which was financed by the Danish Diabetes Academy (DDA); he is pursuing the next answer in a postdoctoral project that the DDA has also decided to support with a grant of DKK 1.8 million.

‘The ultimate goal for me is to understand the underlying mechanisms that increase the formation of GLUT4-containing storage vesicles after physical activity, and the mechanisms that regulate a possible reduced formation of storage vesicles in insulin-resistant conditions’, he says.

And he points out that such an understanding is key to the development of new drugs to prevent insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

‘If the hypothesis is correct, it will be a breakthrough in the understanding of the mechanisms behind raised and lowered muscle insulin sensitivity’, he says.

Strong network at home and abroad
Jonas Borup Roland currently works at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, but will move back to Denmark and join the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports while doing his postdoc.

He and his primary supervisor, head of group and associate professor Thomas E. Jensen, have established a strong network for him both at home and abroad. Nationally, it includes Wouter Boomsma of the Department of Computer Science, University of Copenhagen, and Professor Kurt Højlund of the Steno Diabetes Center Odense; internationally, it includes Professor of Biochemistry Tim McGraw of Weill Cornell in New York and Mondira Kundu of St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, USA.

New material already waiting at Steno Odense
Jonas Borup Roland will begin his postdoc project at the start of 2021, and one thing he will be doing is looking at data collected by the Steno Diabetes Center Odense: figures from middle-aged men divided into three groups, who all experienced a 35 to 45% increase in insulin sensitivity after taking part in an eight-week high-intensity interval study.


Name and title: Jonas Borup Roland MSc PhD, b. 1989

Awarded DKK 1.8 million by the Danish Diabetes Academy.

Project title: GLUT4 storage vesicle biogenesis as a universal determinant and muscle insulin sensitivity?

Research centre: Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen

Principal supervisor: Associate Professor Thomas E. Jensen, head of group

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