Leptin offers potential
'cure' for type 1 diabetes?
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(Top Posts - Science - 022309)
February 17, 2009
Cheer for patients of type-1 diabetes;
effective treatment in the offing
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Washington (IANS): For the first time, termin-
ally ill rodents with type-1 diabetes have been
restored to complete health with a single injec-
tion of a substance other than insulin.
University of Texas Southwestern (UTS) re-
searchers tested for the first time whether an
injection of leptin gene given to insulin-defi-
cient mice dying of diabetic coma could reverse
their terminal condition.
After the injection, the animals began producing
excessive amounts of leptin, which reversed
consequences of type-1 diabetes including
weight loss, hyperglycemia and ketoacidosis,
a potentially fatal condition that develops when
the body doesn't have enough insulin to meet
basic metabolic requirements.
Much of the effect was mediated by complete
suppression of the high glucagon levels, said
Xinxin Yu, assistant instructor of UTS internal
medicine and co-author of the study.
"These animals were actually dying," Yu said.
"But if we gave them the leptin gene, within two
weeks, the terminally ill rodents were restored
to full health without any other treatment."
Since the discovery of insulin in 1922, type-1
diabetes (insulin-dependent diabetes) in humans
has been treated by injecting insulin to lower
high blood sugar levels and prevent diabetic
"The fact that these animals don't die and are
restored to normal health despite a total lack
of insulin is hard for many researchers and clin-
icians to believe," said Roger Unger, professor
of internal medicine and senior study co-author.
"Many scientists, including us, thought it would
be a waste of time to give leptin in the absence
of insulin. We've been brainwashed into think
ing that insulin is the only substance that can
correct the consequences of insulin deficiency."
The mechanism of leptin's glucose-lowering
action appears to involve the suppression of
glucagon, a hormone produced by the pancreas
that raises glucose levels.
The next step is to study other potential glucagon
suppressants and begin leptin clinical trials within
the next year, said an UTS release.
These findings appear in the Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences.
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