Statistics from the American Diabetes Association reveals that Type 2 diabetes affects as many as 28 million Americans. The number of people affected by it is rising every day. As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is being projected that 40 percent of all Americans now alive are at a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
This form of diabetes was once also known as “adult onset”. In this condition, either the body does not produce enough insulin or the body’s ability to use that insulin is degraded. The medications that are available today to treat this condition just target the symptoms and do nothing about the root cause of the disease. However, a new study has said hope that a way to treat the disease at the source can be found. The new study from Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School reveal that a modified form of a different drug – niclosamide often used to remove intestinal parasites may have the key to battle the disease at the source.
This study which was led by Victor Shengkan Jin, an associate professor of pharmacology at Rutgers Robert is published online in the journal Nature Medicine. Jin is of the opinion that it is important to find a suitable medication that can correct the cause of diabetes 2 as soon as possible. The only cure known presently involves a major gastric bypass surgery which can be only performed on highly obese people. It also has a significant health risk which also includes death. So, for most people it is not a practical solution.
Jin says that a major cause of insulin resistance is the concentration of excess fat in the cells of the liver, as well as in muscle tissue. The fat is the culprit that disrupts the process where, ordinarily, insulin would cause body tissues to correctly absorb glucose – blood sugar – and use it as a fuel. Since, it gets nowhere to go, much of the excess glucose remains in the bloodstream. It the blood sugar is in high concentrations, it can damage tissues throughout the body which can also lead to other potential problem like blindness, kidney damage, cardiovascular diseases, etc.
The aim of the study in context was to find a safe and viable way to diminish fat content in the liver. Mice models were used to perform the experiments in the laboratory. The successful researchers in removing fat, and that in turn improved the animals’ ability to use insulin correctly and reduced the blood sugar levels. The name of the modified medication is niclosamide ethanolamine salt (NEN) and it burned the excess fat in liver cells via a process termed as mitochondrial uncoupling.
Mitochondria are the microscopic energy source for each cell in the body, and they are responsible for burning fuels including fats and sugars in needed quantities so that the cells keep functioning. Once the fat is burned, the sugar was able to enter the cell normally. Jim is of the opinion that getting rid of the interference of fat in the liver is muscle tissue is significant for restoring the cells’ ability to respond to insulin properly. It would eventually allow the right amount of sugar to be taken up by cells and thus will reverse the diabetes entirely. Jin also added that more research in the study is needed however; the positive changes he saw in the mice are encouraging and are good enough reason to go further.
The drug used by Jin in modified form is already approved by the FDA for human use. It was deliberately chosen as the aim was to develop a safe and practical compound to deplete fat inside cells.