In a recent study, researchers found a protein produced by the liver that helps to control blood sugar levels may revolutionize treatment for type 2 diabetes.
They found that injecting this protein, called SMOC1, into diabetic mice helped them control their blood glucose much more easily.
The results in mice suggest SMOC1 is more effective than metformin, the current frontline drug for type 2 diabetes.
The researchers also engineered a long-lasting form of SMOC1 which, if it works the same way in humans, would only need to be injected once a week, rather than given daily as is the case for many current diabetes medications.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of Melbourne.
Type 2 diabetes affects more than 400 million people worldwide, and almost one million in Australia alone.
It is also closely linked to obesity, and with the reported incidence of obesity growing (more than two billion people worldwide are overweight or obese), it is forecast 578 million adults will have diabetes by 2030, and 700 million by 2045.
People with diabetes have many complications that can impair their quality of life and reduce their life expectancy.
A major problem for people with type 2 diabetes is high blood glucose, which if left unchecked and untreated, can cause the development of many serious health problems.
There is a range of drugs available to maintain blood glucose levels.
The most common first-choice drug is metformin, which is prescribed to more than 120 million people worldwide.
While metformin is generally safe and effective, it frequently causes gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and flatulence.
Many diabetes drugs can also potentially cause very low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), which can cause shakiness, anxiety, sweating, chills, lightheadedness, confusion and, in severe cases, coma or even death.
In the study, the team found SMOC1, which is naturally produced by the liver and is released into the blood when glucose levels are high, could offer a new way to control blood glucose.
They found SMOC1 levels in the blood to be reduced in people that are insulin resistant (pre-diabetic).
Based on our animal studies and studies using human liver cells, the team anticipates SMOC1 could be effective in people with type 2 diabetes, whether advanced or newly diagnosed.
SMOC1 could make daily medications a thing of the past, boosting a patient’s quality of life.
One author of the study is Magdalene Montgomery.
The study is published in Science Translational Medicine.
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