Intestinal cells in 3D may shed new light on the body’s hormone production
PhD project on hormone-producing L-cells may bring new treatments for diabetes
The GLP-1 hormone plays an important part in the body’s regulation of blood sugar and the feeling of satiety. The hormone is produced and secreted in so-called L-cells in the intestine, presenting a challenge for research because the cells are hard to access and hard to isolate.
‘Our knowledge of the mechanisms that control GLP-1 production and the L-cell function is currently very limited, but a better understanding of those mechanisms could potentially lead to new ways of treating people living with diabetes’, says Astrid Møller Baattrup, who has been awarded a grant of DKK 1.1 million from the Danish Diabetes Academy for her PhD project.
Interest in diabetes research sparked while a student
With Professor Kim Jensen of the University of Copenhagen’s Biotech Research and Innovation Centre (BRIC) as her principal supervisor, Astrid Møller Baattrup will spend the next three years working on the interesting, hard-to-access cells known as L-cells. With the help of 3-dimensional cell culture systems, human intestine cells can be grown as self-organizing structures (organoids) containing the same cell types as are found in the living intestine.
‘The aim is to create genetically modified human structures in which the L-cells that produce the GLP-1 hormone are marked with a fluorescent protein. These cell lines will be used to characterize DNA regions that control L-cell identity and GLP-1 production, thereby making the ‘approach’ to the cells more visible and more easily accessible’, says Astrid Møller Baattrup, whose keen interest in disease mechanisms and the pathology of diabetes was acquired through her studies at the University of Copenhagen.
‘The project will shed new light on the mechanisms that control GLP-1 production in L-cells. This knowledge may ultimately lead to new treatments to increase the body’s production and secretion of GLP-1. Identification of DNA regions that control GLP-1 production will also be used to investigate whether there are gene variants associated with a genetic susceptibility to metabolic diseases such as diabetes’, says Astrid Møller Baattrup, who gained her Master’s in molecular biomedicine at the University of Copenhagen in January.
The research continues
During her studies, Astrid Møller Baattrup worked as a student assistant for Kim Jensen, who also supervised her Master’s project. Her PhD project is a continuation of the L-cell research to which Astrid Møller Baattrup has already made several methodological and analytical contributions.
By Pernille Fløjstrup Andersen, Communications Officer, DDA
Astrid Møller Baattrup, born 1994
Has been awarded DKK 1.1 million by the Danish Diabetes Academy.
Research centres: Biotech Research and Innovation Centre (BRIC), University of Copenhagen / University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
PhD project title: Identification of Gene Regulatory Mechanisms Controlling Human Intestinal GLP-1 Expression
Contact: +45 4156 3426
Contact Danish Diabetes Academy
Managing Director Tore Christiansen
Phone: +45 2964 6764