Optogenetic stimulation of vagal nerves enhances insulin secretion

Dec 17, 2023

Optogenetic stimulation of the vagal nerves enhances insulin secretion and β cell proliferation in response to glucose. This method, involving selective expression of opsins in nerve fibres, shows potential for managing age-related metabolic disorders like diabetes, by leveraging the body’s natural glucose regulation mechanisms.

November 2023 – Nature Biomedical Engineering


Key takeaways


  • Enhanced insulin secretion: The application of optogenetic techniques to stimulate vagal nerves has been shown to effectively increase insulin release when glucose levels rise. This suggests a promising method for improving the body’s natural response to blood sugar, which often becomes less efficient with age
  • β cell proliferation: Beyond just enhancing insulin secretion, this approach also stimulates the growth and multiplication of β cells in the pancreas. Since β cells are responsible for insulin production, their increased proliferation can bolster the body’s long-term ability to regulate blood sugar, a key factor in healthy ageing
  • Potential in age-related metabolic health: The findings open new avenues for treating age-related metabolic disorders, particularly type 2 diabetes, which is characterised by impaired insulin production and action. By directly enhancing the body’s insulin response and β cell health, this method could offer a targeted approach to mitigate one of the common health challenges of ageing
  • Leveraging natural mechanisms: This technique stands out because it harnesses and amplifies the body’s existing mechanisms for managing blood glucose levels. Unlike external interventions like medication, which can have side effects and work against the body’s natural processes, optogenetic stimulation works in harmony with the body’s innate systems, potentially offering a more integrated and holistic approach to managing age-related metabolic issues


Read the article at: Kawana, Y., et al. Optogenetic stimulation of vagal nerves for enhanced glucose-stimulated insulin secretion and β cell proliferation. Nat. Biomed. Eng (2023).