Salk researcher Marc R. Montminy, a professor in the Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the nation's most prestigious honorary society for scientists. The Academy made the announcement in April during its 146th annual meeting in Washington, DC.
Throughout his career, Montminy has been interested in the complex network of brain signals, hormones, and physiological mechanisms that modulate the body's energy balance and set the stage for metabolic disease. While investigating the genetic basis of diabetes, Montminy uncovered a family of genes that act as metabolic switches, turning other genes on or off.
One of them, called CRTC2, acts as a "fasting switch" and plays a crucial role in the development of Type II diabetes. It flips on glucose production in the liver when blood glucose levels run low during the night. Montminy's research revealed that CRTC2 is on in many patients with Type II diabetes. As a result, the liver acts like a sugar factory on overtime, churning out glucose throughout the day.
Initial experiments suggest drugs that prevent CRTC2 from getting stuck might be useful in lowering glucose levels in diabetics and reducing long-term complications associated with the disease. Montminy's honor brings the number of Salk faculty elected to the NAS to 15.