2016-01-11

Two Interesting Diabetes Developments

Probiotics As A Treatment For Both Kinds Of Diabetes

A rather remarkable article in the Daily Mail reports that diabetic rats who were given a particular kind of probiotic experienced something amazing:
Professor March's team engineered a strain of lactobacillus, a human probiotic commonly found in the gut, to secrete a peptide - a hormone that releases insulin in response to food entering the body. 
The scientists then gave a group of diabetic rats the probiotic in pill form for a period of 90 days. 
They monitored the rats' blood glucose levels, comparing their findings with a control group of rats, not exposed to the probiotic pill.The team found those rats given the new drug had blood glucose levels which were up to 30 per cent lower than those rats not given the modified probiotic treatment.

But another finding proved just as exciting.

The scientists found the cells in the upper intestine of the diabetic rats given the treatment were converted into cells that acted similarly to pancreatic cells - which in healthy people secrete insulin to maintain and balance glucose levels.

Professor March, from the university's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said: 'The amount of time to reduce glucose levels following a meal is the same as in a normal rat, and it is matched to the amount of glucose in the blood. 
'It is moving the centre of glucose control from the pancreas to the upper intestine.'
Before you run out and buy up all the yogurt in town, though, keep the following in mind:
It is especially important to note that the probiotic used in the study is different to the probiotic dairy products that are already widely available. 
So what we have are preliminary results that show a chemically engineered version of a human probiotic compound could actually mimic the effect of beta cells. At least, that is what has happened on preliminary tests in rants. This looks like a good therapy to keep an eye on because there is virtually no downside to ingesting probiotics, so even a small effect could easily meet a patient's risk threshold.

Artificial Pancreas: Don't Hold Your Breath

Harvard University seems excited about the prospect of what they are calling an artificial pancreas. I am more skeptical.

What this latest version of the "artificial pancreas" consists of is an insulin pump, a continuous glucose monitor, and a smart phone app, all integrated together. Scientists have developed a robust predictive algorithm that reads more than just your blood sugar data to make better predictions about an individual's blood glucose levels, then provides improved warnings and guidelines via the app to help the patient better manage their condition.

Do I think this will help? Yes. Do I think this is an important development for the treatment of diabetes? Yes.

Do I think it is worthy of being called an artificial pancreas? No, sorry. Not even close.