Monday, January 30, 2006

Brain Plays Key Role In Diabetes Therapy

One of the complexities of understanding diabetes (recent discussion here) is that the body's reaction to insulin is rather variable. If too little insulin is available, glucose is not well absorbed from the bloodstream. Too much glucose in the blood (hyperglycemia) can lead to serious complications such as cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney failure, and glaucoma. On the other hand, too much insulin can cause the body to become resistant to insulin's effects, which again leads to hyperglycemia.

So the body needs to need to be regulate insulin levels fairly closely. It now appears that the brain is part of a properly functioning insulin reglatory system.

Brain Plays Key Role In Diabetes Therapy
[T]he researchers examined the brain's effect on insulin sensitivity in rats with diabetes due to a lack of so-called pancreatic beta cells, which normally secrete insulin. The rats' condition mimics type I, or juvenile, diabetes, a form of the disease that begins in childhood most often due to autoimmune destruction of cells in the pancreas, which leave the organ unable to produce insulin.

The researchers infused the brains of the diabetic rats with a chemical that limits the function of an enzyme involved in the normal insulin response before injecting the animals with the hormone. Without the normal brain response to insulin, the hormone therapy's efficacy for reducing blood sugar fell by about 35%, Schwartz said. Furthermore, they found that gene therapy interventions designed to increase the brain's insulin response heightened the animals' response to therapy about 2-fold.

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