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