Diabetes is a tricky disease and is tricky to treat. Type 1 diabetes, where the body’s immune system insulin-producing cells, is treatable with carefully calibrated injections of insulin. Type 2 diabetes, where the body still produces insulin but cannot process it effectively, cannot be treated with insulin injections. Instead diabetics with Type 2 rely on the thiazolidinediones to get the body to process and respond to insulin again. Thiazolidinediones have a lot of troubling side effects (weight gain, loss of bone density, heart problems, and liver failure to name a few) so finding new ways to treat Type 2 diabetes has been a long-term research goal.
Now it would appear that researchers have had a breakthrough. Using existing knowledge about how thiazolidinediones work and how they think the side effects are signaled researchers thought that if they could find a way to only activate a part of the existing signaling network (called PPARy) there might be a way to target insulin without opening up the flood of side effects. Early research into a group of signaling molecules known as FGFs (fibroblast growth factors) activate the way thiazolidinediones do by activating PPARy. A specific FGF called FGF1 was already known to researchers as having a role in insulin so they decided to test it in mice that had developed insulin-resistant (Type 2) diabetes.
The results? In all of the mice tested just a single injection restored the function of insulin and the more that was injected the better the restoration response. And since diabetes is associated with the inflammation of adipose tissue researchers also looked at indications of inflammation. The FGF1 injections also reduced inflammation and while the mice didn’t lose or gain weight as a result of the injections they also didn’t have any of the side effects seen with thiazolidinediones.
Long term studies are still needed to see what impact the use of FGF1 would have on the body. As FGF is a growth hormone and growth hormones cause cells to divide there is a risk that long-term use of FGF1 to treat Type 2 diabetes could lead to an increase in incidence of cancers, though there are other forms of FGF1 that may not have that issue and researchers are testing it as well. By no means is this the end of Type 2 diabetes, but science is certainly that much closer.
Source: Ars Technica