Scientists Reverse Type 2 Diabetes in Mice
The ability to reverse type 2 diabetes, at least in mice, has been demonstrated by an international team of experts headed by researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. One looming question now is, what does this mean for people at risk for or who have the disease?
To best answer that question, it’s important to first know what the scientists discovered. Basically:
- One injection of a protein called FGF1 (fibroblast growth factor 1) restored blood glucose (sugar) levels to a healthy level for more than 48 hours in treated mice
- Use of FGF1 also reversed insulin insensitivity
- Use of FGF1 was not found to cause any of the side effects commonly associated with currently available treatments for type 2 diabetes, including hypoglycemia
All of these features sound positive; however, it is not yet known whether giving FGF1 to humans with type 2 diabetes will lead to the same results. So what is FGF1?
Without going into all of the deep science, FGF1 is a protein in a family that is involved in various biological activities, such as cell growth, repair of tissues, tumor growth and invasion, and embryonic development. FGF1 in particular plays a role in the development of new blood vessels from pre-existing ones (a process called angiogenics) and in the origin and development of organs (organogenesis).
Several years ago, one of the new study’s authors, Ronald M. Evans, director of Salk’s Gene Expression Laboratory, and his colleagues discovered that FGF1 was capable of helping the body respond to insulin. The scientists found that when mice who did not have the growth factor were put on a high-fat diet, they developed diabetes. This indicated that the protein had a significant impact on blood sugar levels.
So then the scientists gave just one dose of FGF1 to obese mice that had type 2 diabetes, and the blood glucose levels in the mice dropped to normal levels without the commonly associated side effects seen with other diabetic drugs. So what’s the next step?
Evans noted that they need to discover exactly how FGF1 works in diabetes and metabolism, such as how it interacts with receptors in the body. Human trials also are planned for the future, but first the researchers need to develop an effective therapy from the protein.
So although scientists have been able to reverse type 2 diabetes in mice, the road to an effective treatment in people is still down the road. According to Evans, “If we can find the perfect variation, I think we will have on our hands a very new, very effective tool for glucose control.”
Suh JM et al. Endocrinization of FGF1 produces a neomorphic and potent insulin sensitizer. Nature 2014; DOI:10.1038/nature13540