Both major forms of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2, are caused by the same underlying biological mechanism, scientists have discovered.
The finding, reported in the FASEB Journal published by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, provides strong evidence that diabetes results from the formation of toxic clumps of a hormone called amylin. The work by scientists at the Universities of Manchester and Auckland could open the door to new treatments for the metabolic disorder.
Lead researcher Garth Cooper, from the University of Auckland, said the discovery is based on 20 years’ work in New Zealand and that it indicates both types of diabetes could both be slowed down or even reversed by new medicines that stop amylin forming these toxic clumps.
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In addition to producing insulin, cells in the pancreas also produce amylin. Both hormones normally work together to regulate the body’s response to food intake. But if they are no longer produced, then levels of sugar in the blood rise, resulting in diabetes and causing damage to organs such as the heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves if blood sugar levels aren’t properly controlled.
But the new research shows some of the amylin can accumulate in the pancreas as toxic clumps, which then, in turn, destroy those cells that produce insulin and amylin. That, in turn, leads to diabetes.
Cooper’s research team now hopes to develop experimental medicines that could be ready to go into clinical trials in the next two years involving diabetic patients in England and Scotland.
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