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Type 1 diabetes eliminated in research, could mean a 'cure'

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Type 1 diabetes

Researchers have discovered blocking a specific hormone eliminates symptoms of type 1 diabetes, providing a potential cure for the disease. The discovery was made when scientists, working with mice, found out they could eliminate the hormone glucagon with no negative effect on mice unable to produce insulin. They also found mice able to respond normally to insulin suffered no ill effects when glucacon receptors were destroyed.

Blocking glucagon might cure type 1 diabetes

Blocking the hormone could essentially provide a "cure" for type 1 diabetes because the need for insulin treatment becomes unnecessary, suggest the researchers.

Dr. Roger Unger, professor of internal medicine and senior author of the study says, “We’ve all been brought up to think insulin is the all-powerful hormone without which life is impossible, but that isn’t the case. If diabetes is defined as restoration of glucose homeostasis to normal, then this treatment can perhaps be considered very close to a ‘cure.

Glucagon is a hormone produced by the pancreas that stop blood sugar levels from becoming too low - but in type 1 diabetes the hormone keeps blood sugar levels high. Insulin is a hormone needed for growth and development and it's role in the body is to suppress glucagon.

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Individuals with type 1 diabetes take insulin because their pancreas can't secrete enough to suppress glucagon, causing high levels in the bloodstream that lead to symptoms. Managing type 1 diabetes is difficult and requires multiple insulin injections and strict dietary measures to prevent complications.

In the study, researchers used a glucose tolerance test to see how mice would respond. The mice used had no glucagon or insulin activity but did not develop diabetes. The findings show eliminating the action of glucagon also eliminates type 1 diabetes symptoms.

Dr. Unger explains “This does not mean insulin is unimportant. It is essential for normal growth and development from neonatal to adulthood. But in adulthood, at least with respect to glucose metabolism, the role of insulin is to control glucagon."

He says without glucagon, you don't need insulin. Dr. Young Lee, assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern where the study was conducted says the next step is to "find a way to block the actions of glucagon in humans." Doing so could reduce the need for insulin treatment for type 1 diabetes.

Lee adds, "If these latest findings were to work in humans, injected insulin would no longer be necessary for people with type 1 diabetes.” Blocking the hormone glucagon was found to have no adverse effects on the mice in the study. The study shows eliminating the action of the hormone glucagon would turn type 1 diabetes into a disease without symptoms, eliminating the need for insulin treatment.

UT Southwestern Medical Center



Dear Sir, As my son aged 12 is juvenile diabetic, your research in this regard could be a lot of help to hip so as to save himself from insuli-injections. If this proves to be positive outcome please do the needful to my son possibly in India . This is for your advise/ suggestion/ consultation for the further step. May GOD bless you,
Well, you're welcome. We're happy to share research news, but we're not doing the research you see. Do visit us regularly for updates though. I wish your son the best also. I know it is difficult for you and your son to be always so vigilant.
My son has been a type 1 diabetic since he was 8 yrs old.He is now 23 yrs old.We have been through alot of tough times and I sure would like to see him be able to lead a normal life for a change.I hope they find a cure soon this is a terrible thing to deal with everyday of your life.I wish I could take it from him.I pray they fund this cure for all type 1s soon.
I wish your son good health. This research is in early stages. For now, it's important to follow his doctor's advice until more research is advanced. Thank you for sharing, and best to you always.
This would be so awesome as two of my children have type 1 and have had it since early childhood and are now in the 20's with children of thier own. I pray they rush this reseach and cure it for all who have suffered and lost loved ones. Thank you for your hard work and please continue for all of our loved ones!
Why is there not much publicity about this seemingly hopeful "cure"? How long until clinical trials on humans take place?
You can contact UT Southwestern via e-mail! Here is one study at clinicaltrials.gov that is using leptin combined with insulin for type 1 diabetes and it's from UT Southwestern and they are recruiting. Your doctor would refer you if you qualify. http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01268644?term=diabetes+type+1+and+UT+Southwestern&rank=1
this is great news and a great breakthrough, being a type1 diabetic myself i know the down sides of having to inject several times a day everyday and if this means just taking a tablet everyday it would be great. how long till you are able to test it on people as i would love to help by testing it out!!!
Doesn't the body need insulin to get carbs(energy from food) into the cells? How will that happen without insulin?
Well, the researcher here is saying that might not be the case and that it's more about glucose homeostasis - that could be restored by other means. He says in adulthood insulin controls glucagon and that it's glucagon that causes blood sugar spikes.
So when my son eats ice cream, & forgets to dose himself with insulin, you are saying that glucagon has been released ( sensing low blood glucose levels) and THAT is why his blood sugar levels soar to the 400's? Where does the ice cream go? It can't be moved into the cell or stored in the liver without insulin... Confusing.
Glucagon and insulin are both hormones. They act opposite one another. Glucagon raises blood sugars. Insulin lowers glucose levels. They are both secreted in the pancreas. Insulin allows glucose to be taken up into the tissues for energy. Those are the basics - as we know it. BUT glucagon also works through pathways in the brain that was still the subject of research. Here is an excellent link about the complexity and interaction of glucagon and insulin. http://www.medbio.info/Horn/Time%203-4/homeostasis_2.htm Since the two hormones - insulin and glucagon work together - the researchers blocked both of them in mice. Doing that normalized blood sugar levels. There were no spikes in blood sugars levels and no need for insulin to act. They are saying that after eating - if there is no glucagon to raise sugars - there is no need for insulin. Blood sugar levels stayed normal in the mice. I hope that helps a little. There are many many pathways involved in glucose metabolism that are complex, so it isn't just one mechanism. Dr. Unger said without glucagon - there is no need for insulin - other pathways take over. Here is another helpful link: http://www.vivo.colostate.edu/hbooks/pathphys/endocrine/pancreas/glucagon.html
Not to be a downer, but after reading and re-reading this article, I can't believe the author is an RN, or that the research Doctors are in fact "MDs". Insulin and Glucagon are NOT opposite sides of a see-saw. Without glucagon the liver can't convert GLYCOGEN into IV GLUCOSE, which is the human body's short term "emergency supply" (the "long term supply" being fat). ALL people, regardless of whether they have either form of diabetes or not, need insulin in order to metabolize carbohydrates, which are needed for cellular activity. The issue with Type 1 diabetes isn't glucagon, but lack of insulin. Glucagon is released in an "emergency". Without insulin the body starts breaking down proteins and fats, resulting in the production of ketones (eventually leading to keto-acidosis, coma, death). Maybe the study explains the research better, but the article as written does not. I'm not an endocrinologist, but I have been a Type 1 diabetic since 1979, and the father of one since 2000 (great genes), and offer those qualifications as my resumé. This sounds like Science Fiction, not Science.
Cure for Type 1 diabetes? That would be wonderful. I was diagnosed as an adult with type 1. It has been a struggle. I imagine it has been much harder for children. Let hope they can get all the kinks out, so we can metabolize carbohydrates, and other things we need. I am sick of taking shot's and pricking my finger Being the main cook in the home, cooking things I cannot eat. Let's pray that this cure comes soon.
Totally agree with you! More than a "cure", sounds like weird science to me.
Tom, perhaps you can write to the researchers for a better explanation - or read the original press release via the link at the end of the article. You might find to be more explanatory.
please researchers and doctors don{t stop! God bless you all!!!!!hope deeply you will find a cure.My kid of 10 years has been diagnosted D1 in July.It is so hard fr me! i am very depressed
is this cure compatible for all the ppl who have diabetes 1??? or is a future treatment for ppl to prevent a future diabetes one???
Id volunteer for testing.
me too
Me three! Without a second thought!
this news is so amazing and for the first time ive smiled about diabetes!!!!!!! this now has made me feel like there is hope out there for my children and many more that suffer. ive been looking at stem cell treatment for a long time now and your new find has turned my head, a big big well done and to all involved in this wonderful discovery!
UT Southwestern is currently recruiting for their stem cell research. Did you know that Wendy?
My daughter is now 38. She was 6 years old when diagnosed with type 1. I have been praying for 32 years for a cure. My granddaughter was diagnosed last year when she was 11 with type 1. I had prayed so hard that she would never have to go through this. Maybe now after all these years of heart wrenching prayers there will be a cure.
Why can't they just remove the pancrease from the adult type 1?
This would be amazing. My daughter was diagnosed at 15 months old, which was extremely difficult to accept. Now she is 16 years old and is doing better. She is still very brittle, with many highs and lows, with no rhyme or reason that we, her parents and doctors, have been able to find. She does see her endocrine doctor every three months, has always done this, and we can only imagine how much better her life would be without having to live with this disease anymore. Please, please keep working on this very exciting new discovery.
Keep it going!!!! I've had diabetes for 20 years and have had about all I can handle! I try my best to stay in control but have nearly lost my eye sight once already. Not to mention the financial stress, even with decent insurance I pay almost $180 a month just to "live". Brings tears to my eyes anytime I read an article on a possible cure. I truly can't imagine what life would be like without injections everyday. Could I be a human instead of a pin cushion? Please keep working on it!!!!
I myself has had it for 19 yrs and im 30. I lost my sight. In my left eye 9 months ago and as of this holloween i will physically loose it. IM SO DONE WITH DIABETES! I do have plenty of complications from it and also learned in the process. Ive always told my family " all in the name of science!" I would love to be their human tester. Diabetes is very exspencive and in this economey poor get poor and get sicker and sicker. I hate to say that this is one lession learned first hand myself. I almost died the last time i got stressed over it and my finances.
Samantha - I understand - It is very difficult. The meds are expensive. Everyone is different in how they must manage. It costs in some places to see a dietitian even. Often, consults still leave patients confused. I'm so sorry you have had so many complications. And yes, the economy is not helping anyone, especially those battling any health issue.
I think this would be amazing. I am a type 1 diabetic and have had it for 30 odd years I am now getting complication through diabetes and would be a guinea pig for any such research. I do know it would probably be too late for me but would love a cure for others.