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Beating Diabetes: 10 Latest Breakthroughs

M3 India Newsdesk Apr 03, 2017

Per Internal Diabetes Federation (IDF) 1 in every 11 adults suffers from this ailment globally, and one person dies from diabetes every 6 seconds. India had 69.2 million people living with diabetes (8.7%) as per the 2015 data. Of these, it remained undiagnosed in more than 36 million inhabitants.



The medical research fraternity is trying their best to find novel ways to treat or prevent this metabolic disorder. Every research leads a better understanding of diabetes, and new opportunities for a cure presents itself. Below mentioned are some recent updates on diagnosis and treatment of this ailment which gives us hope that diabetes will be a curable disease shortly.


1. Insulin That Can be Inhaled


This breakthrough treatment modality can help many people with diabetes avoid the daily prick of insulin injections. Technosphere insulin (TI) is a formulation of the short-acting regular insulin, which can be inhaled using special inhalers. Marketed as Afrezza, a product of Mannkind Corp, this product is available in a powder form and is taken by oral inhalation with meals. The peak action happens after 40-60 min, and the effect lasts for 2-3 hours. TI is found to be slightly less efficient than subcutaneous insulin as part but is associated with lower risk of late postprandial hypoglycemia and weight gain. However, the use of inhaled insulin should be accompanied by periodic monitoring of pulmonary function. The initial reports look promising, but long-term data will be needed to decide its long-term feasibility.


2. Regulatory T Cells for Blood Glucose Regulation


Researchers have been able to remove healthy T cells (one type of immune cells) that regulate insulin production, from a non-diabetic person. The T cells play a major role in immunity and autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes. These cells when injected into a diabetic suffering from type 1 diabetes, tend to stimulate the pancreas to produce insulin. This treatment modality can prove to be a cure for diabetes if the advanced trials become successful.


3. Artificial Pancreas Device


The artificial pancreas is a device that can be implanted into the abdomen of a patient with type 1 diabetes mellitus. The device has two systems - one that monitors the blood glucose levels, the second, that delivers insulin shots as needed, based on the glucose levels. Therefore, the patient doesn’t need to take the insulin shot himself daily. This artificial pancreas device is likely to receive the FDA approval in early 2017.


4. Betatrophin - The New Kid on the Block


Betatrophin has been in the news as a new biomarker and is associated with many chronic conditions. Conceptually, it is believed that injections of the hormone betatrophin can trigger the pancreas to produce insulin cells in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus. Even though the research for the same is in its initial stages, it can pave the way for a cure for people with damaged or dysfunctional pancreas. 


5. Organ Transplant for Diabetes


Pancreatic cell transplant may be an effective way to treat type 1 diabetes.  In this modality, pancreatic cells are harvested from healthy donors and are transplanted into the diabetic patient. Theoretically, these new cells should multiply and take over the function of the damaged pancreas, thus treating diabetes. However, as with other organ transplants, there are many biological levels involved, and the graft may get rejected by the body’s immune system. Researchers are on the way to find ways to counteract this rejection and make a cure possible shortly.


6. Compounds with Anti-Diabetic Properties


Researchers from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School and the Yale University School of Medicine, have discovered compounds that have anti-diabetic properties. These chemical compounds tend to mimic the effects of vigorous exercise on the blood glucose levels. Shortly, if these compounds are developed into formulations, a better management of type 2 diabetes could be possible.


7. Stem cells- The Ultimate Reservoirs


Stem cells are the mother of all cells and they can be triggered to develop into any specialised cells, such as cardiac muscles, nerve cells, or even pancreatic islet cells. Newer studies are using the stem cells and stimulating them to develop into cells that produce insulin. These stem cells are harvested from healthy people and multiplied in laboratories to generate millions of islet cells, that produce insulin. The initial studies have shown promising results and human trials will begin soon. 


8. A Pill To Cure Diabetes


Can curing diabetes become as easy as popping a pill? Probiotics are the microorganisms that reside in our gastrointestinal tract, and these friendly bacteria perform many protective functions, and one of them is to regulate blood glucose. Researchers have found certain gut bacteria, that can help normalise blood glucose levels in diabetic patients. These live bacteria can be administered through an oral pill, and they tend to rewire the body’s pathway of glucose utilisation. The results from animal studies have shown incredible results, and the researchers hope to replicate the results in human trials.


9. Malaria Drug To Tackle Type 1 Diabetes


In type 1 diabetes, the beta cells of the pancreas become dysfunctional and no longer produce insulin. Researchers have come up with a solution; they can now activate the alpha cells (one of the three kinds of cells in the pancreas) in the pancreas to lose their identity and start functioning like beta cells to produce insulin. Artemisinins, found in a malaria drug, regulates the genetic components of GABA receptors that cause the alpha cells to work like beta cells. If the trials succeed in humans, the drug can cure type 1 diabetes by changing the genetic make-up.


10. Drug for Diabetes Reversal


LMPTP or low molecular weight protein tyrosine phosphatase is an enzyme that promotes insulin resistance in the body, which leads to diabetes. If this protein is turned off, the body will again become sensitive to insulin, and the diabetes state would be reversed. The scientists have now developed a drug that can put this enzyme off. Although the drug carries many expectations, the world must wait for the human trials for desired results.


Every cloud has a silver lining, but this cloud has many. There is no dearth of promising studies for cure and reversal of diabetes, and with so many exciting developments, diabetes will hopefully cease to exist soon. 


Read More About the Topic:


  1. IDF Diabetes Atlas Seventh Edition 2015
  2. Place of technosphere inhaled insulin in treatment of diabetes
  3. Improving Efficacy of Inhaled Technosphere Insulin (Afrezza) by Postmeal Dosing
  4. The impact of symptomatic upper respiratory tract infections on insulin absorption and action of Technosphere inhaled insulin.
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