Insecticide, garden chemicals could be major diabetes risk factor

New research suggests that exposure to chemicals in insecticides and garden products could be putting people at higher risk for developing diabetes.

The study, published in Chemical Research in Toxicology, used big data, computer modeling on millions of chemicals and standard wet-laboratory experiments to conclude its findings.

"This is the first report demonstrating how environmental chemicals found in household products interact with human melatonin receptors," Margarita L. Dubocovich, PhD, the lead author on the study and a SUNY distinguished professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Buffalo, said in a statement. "No one was thinking that the melatonin system was affected by these compounds, but that's what our research shows.”

Her research focuses on carbaryl, the third most widely used insecticide in the U.S., and carbofuran, the most toxic carbamate insecticide.

"We found that both insecticides are structurally similar to melatonin and that both showed affinity for the melatonin, MT2 receptors, that can potentially affect glucose homeostasis and insulin secretion," said Marina Popevska-Gorevski, one of the authors on the study and a scientist with Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, who worked in Dubocovich's lab while earning her master's degree at UB. "That means that exposure to them could put people at higher risk for diabetes and also affect sleeping patterns."

Through her research, Dubocovich hopes to inform federal regulators of the findings to put more restrictions on the availability and use of these chemicals. The researchers are currently developing a rapid bioassay that could asses these environmental chemicals.