Our bodies are confused by this 21st-century world.
IN the last half-century, the prevalence of autoimmune disease — disorders in which the immune system attacks healthy tissue in the body — has increased sharply in the developed world. An estimated one in 13 Americans has one of these often debilitating, generally lifelong conditions. Many, like Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease, are linked with specific gene variants of the immune system, suggesting a strong genetic component. But their prevalence has increased much faster — in two or three generations — than it’s likely the human gene pool has changed.
Many researchers are interested in how the human microbiome — the community of microbes that live mostly in the gut and are thought to calibrate our immune systems — may have contributed to the rise of these disorders. Perhaps society-wide shifts in these microbial communities, driven by changes in what we eat and in the quantity and type of microbes we’re exposed to in our daily lives, have increased our vulnerability.
“A Roomba ate my pancreas!” It sounds like the plot of a weird sci-fi comedy. But in Dana Lewis’s life, this is just a normal day.
Lewis is one of the first people in America to create her own mechanical pancreas in an attempt to better manage her type 1 diabetes. (Her robotic vacuum cleaner keeps slurping up and choking on the system’s many cables.)
Type 1 diabetes is, at its simplest, a broken pancreas. Sometimes called juvenile diabetes, the autoimmune disease disables the pancreas from producing insulin, a key component for controlling blood sugar. People with Type 1 diabetes often have to use glucose monitors and insulin pumps to allow their bodies to function.
Between October 2013 and July 2014, six healthy, middle-aged men reported to Temple University Hospital in north Philadelphia. For seven days, researchers confined each subject to his hospital bed and told him to select breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with three daily snacks, from the hospital menu containing typical American cuisine: eggs, fried chicken, hamburgers, French fries, etc. The intake totaled a whopping 6,000 calories—about 2.5 times the men’s normal diet.
Physician Guenther Boden of the Temple University School of Medicine and his colleagues had recruited the men to investigate how overeating leads to insulin resistance, which in rodent models happens quickly and dramatically, well before the animals gain much weight. Researchers had proposed several possible mechanisms, including elevated levels of fatty acids; inflammation; endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress; and oxidative stress. “If you look at people who are obese and insulin resistant, you find all sorts of abnormalities that could explain the insulin resistance,” says Boden. “What no one knows is how the whole thing starts.”
(Reuters Health) – Compared to other kinds of fat, extra virgin olive oil may have healthier effects on levels of blood sugar and bad cholesterol after meals, according to an Italian study.
That may explain why a traditional Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil is linked to lower risk of cardiovascular disease, researchers say.
“Lowering (post-meal) blood glucose and cholesterol may be useful to reduce the negative effects of glucose and cholesterol on the cardiovascular system,” lead study author Francesco Violi, a researcher at Sapienza University in Rome, said by email.
Violi and his colleagues tested the effect of adding extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) to a Mediterranean diet based on fruits, vegetables, grains and fish, with only limited consumption of dairy or red meat.
A large team of researchers with members from across the globe has found that an ingredient in popular cough medicines may help people with Type 2 diabetes. They have published a description of their research and their findings in the journal Nature Medicine.
Type 2 diabetes is the kind of diabetes that people normally get as adults, it is characterized by the pancreas producing less insulin, a hormone that helps the body regulate and use glucose. The cause of diabetes is not known and there is no cure. Patients must typically modify their diet and take medications or insulin to maintain their health. In this new effort, the researchers report that they were conducting a study of dextromethorphan, the active ingredient in many cough suppressants—prior research had shown that when ingested, as the body works on it, a byproduct called dextrorphan is formed—a compound that suppresses the activity of certain brain receptor cells which reduces the urge to cough. Prior research had shown that it also had an impact on receptor cells in the pancreas, but it was not known what that impact was. The team reports that they were expecting the compound to worsen insulin production, but found instead that it apparently caused the receptor cells to nudge the pancreas as a whole into producing more insulin.
Human skin from cadavers that have had their cells removed can help treat wounds, researchers say.
This new treatment could prove especially helpful for chronic skin wounds, which are a growing threat to public health, scientists added. According to the National Institutes of Health, treating such wounds costs the United States more than $25 billion annually.
About 1 in 100 people in the United States will suffer from chronic leg ulcers during their lifetime. With an aging population and increasing rates of diseases linked to ulcers and other skin wounds, such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease, the prevalence and costs of such wounds are likely to rise in the future, said study senior author Ardeshir Bayat, a bioengineer and clinician-scientist at the University of Manchester in England.
Scientists, like mothers, have long suspected that midnight snacking is inadvisable. But until a few years ago, there was little in the way of science behind those suspicions. Now, a new study shows that mice prevented from eating at all hours avoided obesity and metabolic problems — even if their diet was sometimes unhealthful.
Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego and elsewhere began experimenting with the eating patterns of laboratory mice in a previous study. On that occasion, some mice consumed high-fat food whenever they wanted; others had the same diet but could eat only during an eight-hour window. None exercised. The mice that ate at all hours soon grew chubby and unwell, with symptoms of diabetes. But the mice on the eight-hour schedule gained little weight and developed no metabolic problems. Those results were published in 2012.
Diabetes drugs encourage the pancreas to release insulin to control blood sugar levels, but many of them cause side effects, affecting other organs such as the brain and heart. Some drugs, meanwhile, encourage too much insulin release, causing blood sugar levels to drop too much. Now, scientists have created a type 2 diabetes drug that can be switched on and off by blue light, potentially improving treatment.
In type 2 diabetes, the body builds resistance to insulin, requiring more insulin to bring down blood glucose levels. As such, the pancreas needs to produce more insulin than it normally would.
The researchers – from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London in the UK and LMU Munich in Germany – publish their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
They note that type 2 diabetes, which impairs an individual’s control over their blood sugar levels, affects about 350 million people around the world. The disease can lead to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke, causing potential damage to the kidneys, nerves and retinas.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2012, 29.1 million people in the US – 9.3% of the population – had diabetes.
The disease involves a disturbance of normal glucose homeostasis caused by a failure of the pancreas’ beta cell mass to compensate for increased insulin resistance. However, in their new study, the researchers show that their prototype drug – called JB253 – stimulates insulin release from pancreatic cells when exposed to blue light.