How diabetes mice can survive without insulin

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Possibly discovered substitute for insulin for diabetes

People with diabetes rely on regular insulin injections, otherwise their blood will be over-sugar (hyperglycaemia). An investigation by Swiss researchers at the University of Geneva on diabetes mice had shown that another substance could be used as an alternative in the future. The so-called leptin is said to have fewer side effects and also to work even better as an antagonist of glucagon, which increases the blood sugar level.

Leptin versus insulin in diabetes
The hormone insulin breaks down sugar in the body so that the blood sugar level drops. However, people with diabetes either have insulin deficiency, insulin resistance, or both. This leads to an unwanted increase in blood sugar levels, which in the worst case can lead to hyperglycemic coma. Therefore, the rule so far was that diabetic patients cannot live without artificially supplied insulin.

Swiss scientists led by Roberto Coppari from the University of Geneva carried out studies on mice with diabetes, in which the researchers may have discovered a possible alternative for insulin. They injected the substance leptin directly into the brain of the diabetes mice in order to identify the brain cells that are responsible for the hypoglycemic effects of leptin. In addition, the scientists succeeded in identifying the tissues that could absorb blood sugar through the leptin. This included the liver, certain muscles and the fat-burning brown adipose tissue. A communication from the University of Geneva states that these tissues could be targeted for therapies in the future. An alternative for insulin is emerging, says Coppari.

While insulin is an effective way to lower blood sugar levels, diabetics can expect certain side effects. An incorrect dosage can cause hypoglycaemia and therefore loss of consciousness. Insulin also increases blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Cardiovascular diseases can be the result. In contrast, leptin does not appear to cause any of these side effects. Rather, it turned out to be a more effective antagonist of Glucagon, which is responsible for increasing blood sugar levels because it works more precisely on the sugar in the blood. Apart from the fact that leptin cannot cause hypoglycaemia, it inhibits appetite and leads to the breakdown of fat stores. The researchers published their results in the journal "Cell Metabolism".

Diabetes is becoming a widespread disease Diabetes is becoming a widespread disease in industrialized countries. Many children and adolescents are also affected. A few decades ago, type 2 diabetes occurred almost exclusively in older people, which is why the disease was also referred to as "adult diabetes". Today, however, adolescents are already suffering from the metabolic disorder. A study by the University of Ulm, which was published in the specialist magazine "Pediatric Diabetes", shows that children and adolescents with a migration background are particularly affected by the disease. The cause is primarily to be found in socio-economic reasons, the study author Dr. Wendy Awa. (ag)

Image: Henrik Gerold Vogel /

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