Type 2 diabetes affects about one million Australians and 400 million people globally.
People with diabetes have complications that impairs their quality of life and reduce their life expectancy. They are four times more likely to suffer heart attacks and strokes, are three times more likely to suffer kidney failure and 15 times more likely to need amputations than non-diabetics.
Diabetes is the leading cause of preventable blindness in Australia and nearly half the people with diabetes experiences a mental illness, such depression or anxiety.
Current medications can be effective but have limited tolerability and significant side effects.
Once a week injections
A University of Melbourne study found that the SMOC1 protein, which is naturally produced by the liver, can decrease blood glucose levels.
Researchers have engineered a long-lasting form of SMOC1 which, if it works the same way in humans as in mice, would only need a weekly injection.
In mice SMOC1 is more effective than metformin, the current frontline drug for type 2 diabetes, in improving blood glucose control and insulin sensitivity. It also avoids the risk of causing dangerously low blood sugar associated with current drugs.
SMOC1 also reduces fatty liver and blood cholesterol levels, which are common health problems in type 2 diabetes patients.
Non-invasive blood glucose monitoring
Research by Dr Masakazu Aihara and colleagues at The University of Tokyo, Japan has found that glucose levels in tears is closely related to glucose in the blood. Moreover glycoalbumin levels in tears reflect an average of blood glucose levels over the preceding two weeks. Measurement of these biomarkers in tears is a potential method of monitoring the disease that would avoid the need to take blood samples.
Other Japanese researchers have developed a microneedle patch for monitoring glucose levels using a paper sensor. The device painlessly monitors fluid in the skin within seconds. Anyone can use the disposable patch without training, making it highly practical.
Enzyme linked to insulin resistance and glucose intolerance
Australian scientists at the Centenary Institute, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney have found that insulin resistance and glucose intolerance are caused by the lack of an enzyme in the liver called sphingosine kinase 2. This suggests a new treatment approach for diabetic patients whose glucose blood levels are dangerously high.
Daily hot tub
Dr Hisayuki Katsuyama, of Kohnodai Hospital, Japan and colleagues have found that a daily hot bath reduces the risk factors for type 2 diabetes, including glycated haemoglobin, a measure of blood sugar control. It also leads to reductions in diastolic blood pressure.
Will metformin benefit you?
Metformin is the first-line drug to lower blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes patients, but one third of patients do not respond to it and some suffer serious side effects. Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have now identified biomarkers that can show how the patient will respond to metformin treatment via a simple blood test.
“We have found biomarkers that can identify which patients will benefit from and tolerate metformin. This will advance personalised therapy in type 2 diabetes,” says Professor Sonia García-Calzón.
Using electromagnetism to manage blood sugar
Diabetic mice exposed to electromagnetic fields for a few hours per day have normal blood sugar and response to insulin, with no drugs or injections..
“We’ve built a remote control to manage diabetes,” says Calvin Carter at the University of Iowa.
“The effects are long-lasting, opening the possibility of an electromagnetic therapy that can be applied during sleep to manage diabetes all day.”
The new study indicates that electromagnetism alters the balance of oxidants and antioxidants in the liver, improving the body’s response to insulin.”
The findings were published in Cell Metabolism last month.