29 JUL 2017
Diabetes is not just one condition – but whether your body is struggling with blood sugar levels due to type 1, or type 2, or even only during pregnancy, it’s a serious condition that requires daily care and still doesn’t have a cure.
But scientists have been working hard to find cures, new treatments, and better management techniques for the millions of people worldwide dealing with diabetes. Here are some of the latest developments you need to know about.
- Brand new beta cells.
Type 1 diabetes develops when a person’s immune system wipes out insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. But it turns out that another type of immature beta cell has been hiding in our pancreases all along, and scientists think it might be possible to use these ‘virgin beta cells’ to restore the functionality of the pancreas.
- A preventative vaccine.
Finnish researchers are about to embark on the first-ever clinical trial for a type 1 diabetes prevention vaccine.
While it’s not a cure for those who already have the condition, a successful vaccine could potentially prevent thousands of cases each year, as the vaccine targets a virus linked with the development of an autoimmune reaction in the pancreas.
- A unique transplant.
One woman with severe type 1 diabetes has spent a year without insulin injections thanks to an experimental transplant. Doctors implanted insulin-producing cells into a fatty membrane in the stomach cavity, and the success of the operation is paving the way towards more people receiving artificial pancreases.
- New pancreas tissue.
Earlier this year scientists announced that they reversed type 1 diabetes in mice by giving them a transplant of pancreatic tissue. The tissue was grown using stem cells from non-diabetic mice, and the success of this method suggests it could be a treatment avenue for people, too.
- Intensive treatment program.
For people with type 2 diabetes who have developed insulin resistance, a ticket to diabetes reversal could be an intensive combination of therapies tested by Canadian researchers. The short-term course trial successfully reversed the condition in 40 percent of the trial participants.
- Platypus venom.
Scientists in Australia have found a new type of the insulin-regulating hormone GLP-1 in a surprising source – the venom of platypuses and echidnas. In humans the hormone breaks down really quickly, leading some people with type 2 diabetes to develop a dependence on medication.
But the GLP-1 produced by these animals is a lot more stable, providing clues for new diabetes treatments.
- Longer-lasting meds.
Researchers have also managed to make GLP-1 last longer by creating special slow-dissolving molecules that carry the hormone. In preclinical animal tests their new solution lasted more than two weeks from one injection. For people managing their type 2 diabetes with daily shots, this could be an exciting development.
- A symptom-reducing diet.
By putting diabetic mice on a special diet, scientists recently managed to reverse symptoms for both types of diabetes in their test subjects. The researchers think that the diet forces the pancreatic cells into a kind of ‘developmental reprogramming’. Next up – testing this in people.
There’s a compound in broccoli called sulforaphane, and a 12-week study on volunteers with type 2 diabetes recently showed that the chemical was really helpful at regulating their blood sugar.
More research is needed, but the results are encouraging, and the drug could one day be added to the arsenal of treatment options.