TYPE 2 DIABETES can be effectively treated by managing blood sugar levels and maintaining a healthy weight. Now experts have found a new way to treat the condition – and it could even reverse symptoms.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body can’t use insulin effectively or when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin.
This means glucose – or sugar – stays in the blood and isn’t used as fuel.
If glucose builds up in the blood it can lead to hyperglycaemia which is toxic to organs.
Now experts believe the condition could be treated by implanting sponges into fat tissue.
A study has shown that in obese mice with type 2 diabetes symptoms, the implant reduced weight gain and blood sugar levels.
The research was presented at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.
Experts said the sponges, which are made of poly(lactide-co-glycolide), or PLG, help to reduce fat and lower blood sugar levels.
“We’re approaching diabetes as tissue engineers,” said Professor Michael Gower, fro the University of South Carolina.
“When people eat poorly, don’t exercise and are under a lot of stress, they gain weight.
“When fat stores get too large, communication with other parts of the body breaks down and can lead to diabetes. What we’re trying to do is restart that conversation.”
The experts set out to see what impact the sponges had on fat – in a bid to stimulate communication from fat to other organs and tissues.
The sponges deliver pancreatic islets – or cells which stimulate hormones – into the fat.
Michael Hendley, a doctoral student in Gower’s USC lab, implanted PLG sponges in large abdominal fat pads in obese mice that had developed symptoms resembling those of Type 2 diabetes.
In one week, the mice’s fat cells, immune cells and blood vessels filled the pores of the implant.
After three weeks of a high-fat diet, mice with the sponges had a 10 per cent increase in body fat, whereas the mice without the implant gained 30 per cent more body fat.
The treated mice also had 60 per cent higher levels of a protein known to move glucose from the blood stream into muscle cells.
Researchers are now trying to fine tune the treatment – and are also infusing the sponges with more molecules to enhance its activity.
Professor Gower said: ”I think what’s really exciting about this work and its implications is that we’re looking at how implanting this biomaterial in fat tissue, which has the ability to communicate with other organs, is affecting the whole body.”