Scientists near cure for diabetes
By Chukwuma Muanya
Scientists claim they are closer than ever to cures for type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
According to researchers beginning a world-first trial in the south of England, type 1 diabetes could be prevented by feeding babies powdered insulin.
Pregnant women are being asked to sign up to the National Health Service (NHS) trial in the Thames Valley in a bid to protect at-risk babies from type 1 diabetes for the rest of their lives.
People with the condition do not produce the hormone insulin, which regulates blood sugar, and scientists suggest feeding it to babies who show signs of diabetes.
This could train the immune system not to stop the body producing vital insulin, and prevent type 1 diabetes from ever developing, the researchers say.
Researchers from Oxford University say the trial is ‘an enormous breakthrough’ and hope they can stop the potentially deadly condition from developing.
And scientists at the University of Alabama have revealed a cheap drug commonly used to treat high blood pressure could improve diabetics’ symptoms and reduce the amount of insulin they need to take.
Pregnant women in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes and Oxfordshire are being invited to take part in the NHS’s world-first trial.
It is the first to ever look into preventing type 1 diabetes, the researchers say, and will involve screening all babies for diabetes risk at birth.
The findings were published in the journal Nature Medicine.
Experts expect one per cent of the children to have a high risk – a greater than 10 per cent chance of developing type 1 diabetes – because of their genes.
Parents of those children will then be offered powdered insulin to give their child until they are three years old, with the aim of giving them protection for life.
Insulin is a hormone, which controls the levels of sugar in people’s blood, and those with type 1 diabetes do not produce any, so their sugar levels get dangerously high.
People with the condition have to regularly check their blood sugar levels and inject themselves with insulin to keep steady levels of glucose in their body.
Type 1 diabetes cannot be cured, and can lead to complications such as blindness, kidney failure and limb amputation because of nerve damage.
It also makes people much more like to have a stroke or heart attack.
The Primary Oral Insulin Trial, called POInT, aims to prevent the condition ever developing in people who have a high risk when they are born.
In people with type 1 diabetes, a faulty immune system causes the body to attack its own insulin-producing cells in the pancreas and destroys them.
By feeding babies insulin, scientists hope the immune system will become used to the hormone and not attack pancreatic cells in the future.
Also, new research suggests a single injection could cure both obesity and type 2 diabetes without any side effects.
A study found injecting a hormone, known as FGF21, into obese mice causes weight loss and greater insulin sensitivity for more than a year.
Insulin resistance is the reduced ability of cells to respond to the hormone, which transports glucose out of the bloodstream and is associated with the onset of type 2 diabetes.
FGF21 is thought to lead to weight loss by boosting animals’ energy levels, making them more active.
The hormone also raises their body temperatures, which causes rodents to burn calories.
The study was published in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine.
Type 2 diabetes is a condition, which causes a person’s blood sugar to get too high.
Type 2 diabetes is associated with being overweight and you may be more likely to get it if it’s in the family.
The condition means the body does not react properly to insulin – the hormone that controls absorption of sugar into the blood – and cannot properly regulate sugar glucose levels in the blood.
Excess fat in the liver increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes as the buildup makes it harder to control glucose levels, and also makes the body more resistant to insulin.
Weight loss is the key to reducing liver fat and getting symptoms under control.
Symptoms include tiredness, feeling thirsty, and frequent urination.
It can lead to more serious problems with nerves, vision and the heart.
Treatment usually involves changing your diet and lifestyle, but more serious cases may require medication.
How was the research was carried out? The researchers, from the Autonomous University of Barcelona, fed adult mice either a standard or high-fat diet for 10 weeks.
The weight of the animals fed the standard diet increased by 27 per cent, while the other rodents’ increased by 72 per cent, making them obese.
The obese mice were then injected with FGF21. Those of a healthy weight were given a placebo-style jab.
All of the rodents were then fed their respective diets for around one year, with their body weights being monitored throughout.
Results suggest the weight of the mice injected with FGF21 normalised within a few weeks of the jab, making them a similar size to the rodents given a standard diet.
The obese animals, which were suffering from insulin resistance, also had normal levels of the hormone after being given the jab.
FGF21, which has been associated with bone loss, did not cause any change to the mice’s bone density or volume.
When the researchers fed a high-fat diet to older adult mice and then injected them with FGF21, the rodents initially lost 10 per cent of their body weight, with them continuing to shed the pounds until they were the same size as healthy animals.
The scientists carried out this second experiment due to the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes increasing with age.
Although the findings, published in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine, are promising, the researchers add larger, longer studies in animals are required before FGF21 can be considered for treatment in humans.
Source: The Guardian