Scientists are a step closer to developing safer, more effective drugs for type 2 diabetes patients. A group of researchers discovered a way of halting the illness in its tracks with an injection of a specific protein.

The protein, FGF1, restores the levels of blood sugar for more than two days, scientists say. It also reverses insulin insensitivity, which is believed to be one of the causes of diabetes. The study did not show the side effects commonly seen with most treatments, raising cause for excitement among scientists.

The study was conducted at Salk Institute in La Jolla, California. Type 2 diabetes was induced in mice through a specific diet to mimic the symptoms of the illness---caused by excess weight and inactivity---in humans. The disease itself has seen a steady rise in the U.S. as well as in many other countries. Currently about 30 million Americans are diagnosed.

The disease occurs when glucose collects in the bloodstream, reducing the amount of insulin (sugar carrier) produced. There is no cure as of yet, though treatments, exercise, and strict diets keep the illness in check and help prevent some symptoms. If left unchecked, serious health problems can arise.

"Controlling glucose is a dominant problem in our society," says Ronald M. Evans, corresponding author of the paper published in Nature. "And FGF1 offers a new method to control glucose in a powerful and unexpected way."

Presently, drugs for diabetics increase insulin levels and try to reverse insulin insensitivity by lowering glucose levels in the blood via genetic expression. Often, however, such drugs have side effects because they overcompensate and cause glucose levels to decline excessively.

Evans looked at a growth factor that helps the body in its insulin response. When he blocked the growth factor in mice, the mice developed diabetes after being placed on high-fat diets. This triggered the idea behind the current study of whether or not extra growth factor (the previously mentioned FGF1) would have an effect.

In the study researchers administered a single does and found that blood sugar levels dropped to normal levels in every diabetic animal.

According to another author of the paper, Michael Downes, previous studies attempting to inject healthy mice with FGF1 produced no results. This study, which injected the growth facto into diabetic mice, showed dramatic improvements in glucose levels.

At high doses, the growth factor did not induce any side effects often seen in other diabetes treatments. The scientists believe that is because it metabolizes quicker than other drugs and only targets certain types of cells during treatment.

While the mechanism behind FGF1 is still not wholly understood, this study paves for the way for the possible new development of an exciting diabetes therapy that could one day help millions. Evans and his colleagues are presently trying to work out clinical human trials to test the protein as a treatment. 

ⓒ 2021 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.