Insulin Isn’t the Only Blood Sugar Regulator

Scientists have known for 100 years that insulin is the body’s main mechanism for controlling blood sugar levels, but researchers have now discovered a second hormone does the same job a bit differently — and they say it could be a new target for treating diabetes.

The hormone, called FGF1, is produced in the body’s fat tissue. Like insulin, it swiftly lowers sugar levels in the blood, but researchers found in mice that it works independently of insulin, and by a different mechanism.

Type 2 diabetes arises when the body becomes resistant to insulin, leading to chronically high blood levels of glucose (sugar). Over time, that can take a toll on the body’s arteries and nerves, leading to complications like heart and kidney disease, stroke, vision problems and permanent nerve damage.

In the new study, scientists found FGF1 suppresses the breakdown of fat tissue, which reduces the liver’s ability to churn out glucose. Insulin also does those things, but FGF1 accomplishes it via a different “signaling pathway” in the body.

And in lab mice with insulin resistance, injections of FGF1 substantially lower blood sugar.

“This mechanism is basically a second loop, with all the advantages of a parallel pathway,” said study author Gencer Sancar, a postdoctoral researcher at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif.

“In insulin resistance, insulin signaling is impaired,” Sancar said in an institute news release. “However, with a different signaling cascade, if one is not working, the other can. That way you still have the control of [fat breakdown] and blood glucose regulation.”

However, whether the animal findings will ultimately translate to people with type 2 diabetes remains to be seen.

One question is whether people who are insulin-resistant would also be resistant to FGF1, noted Dr. Emily Gallagher, an endocrinologist who was not involved in the study.

She said it’s also possible that targeting FGF1 could be effective in certain people with type 2 diabetes, but not others.

“Type 2 diabetes is a complex condition where different individuals have different metabolic profiles,” explained Gallagher, an assistant professor in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Bone Diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

Scientists had known something about the workings of FGF1. In past studies, the Salk researchers found that it lowered blood sugar in lab mice, and when given continually it lessened insulin resistance in the animals.

The new study, published Jan. 4 in the journal Cell Metabolism, delved into exactly how the hormone works.

The researchers found that, similar to insulin, FGF1 suppresses fat breakdown, which in turn helps control blood sugar. But its modus operandi is different: Insulin acts through an enzyme called PDE3B, which sets off a chain of events called a signaling pathway.

FGF1 uses a different enzyme — called PDE4.

“Now that we’ve got a new pathway, we can figure out its role in energy homeostasis in the body and how to manipulate it,” said senior study author Michael Downes, a staff scientist at Salk.

Gallagher said it’s “very interesting” that FGF1 can have insulin-like effects in fat tissue. But much more remains to be learned.

More lab research, she said, is needed to understand the long-term effects of FGF1 on insulin signaling and insulin resistance.

“And in people,” Gallagher said, “it would be important to understand more about the systemic effects of administering FGF1, as FGF1 affects many organ systems — including the inflammatory system — and also can alter tumor growth.”

Whether manipulating the hormone, or the proteins it regulates, would be appropriate in people with type 2 diabetes “remains to be determined,” Gallagher said. Read More

Symptoms Of Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

  • Diabetes is a chronic condition associated with abnormally high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Insulin produced by the pancreas lowers blood glucose. Absence or insufficient production of insulin, or an inability of the body to properly use insulin causes diabetes.
  • The two types of diabetes are referred to as type 1 and type 2. Former names for these conditions were insulin-dependent and non-insulin-dependent diabetes, or juvenile onset and adult-onset diabetes.
  • Some of the risk factors for getting diabetes include being overweight or obese, leading a sedentary lifestyle, a family history of diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), and low levels of the “good” cholesterol (HDL) and elevated levels of triglycerides in the blood.
  • If you think you may have prediabetes or diabetes contact a health-care professional

How does diabetes make you feel?

  • hunger,
  • fatigue,
  • skin problems
  • slow healing wounds,
  • yeast infections, and
  • tingling or numbness in the feet or toes.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus is a group of metabolic diseases characterized by high blood sugar (glucose) levels that result from defects in insulin secretion, or its action, or both. Diabetes mellitus, commonly referred to as diabetes (as it will be in this article) was first identified as a disease associated with “sweet urine,” and excessive muscle loss in the ancient world. Elevated levels of blood glucose (hyperglycemia) lead to spillage of glucose into the urine, hence the term sweet urine.

Normally, blood glucose levels are tightly controlled by insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. Insulin lowers the blood glucose level. When the blood glucose elevates (for example, after eating food), insulin is released from the pancreas to normalize the glucose level by promoting the uptake of glucose into body cells. In patients with diabetes, the absence of insufficient production of or lack of response to insulin causes hyperglycemia. Diabetes is a chronic medical condition, meaning that although it can be controlled, it lasts a lifetime.

How many people in the US have diabetes?

  • Diabetes affects approximately 30.3 million people (9.4% of the population) in the United States, while another estimated 84.1 million people have prediabetes and don’t know it.
  • An estimated 7.2 million people in the United States have diabetes and don’t even know it.
  • Over time, diabetes can lead to blindnesskidney failure, and nerve damage. These types of damage are the result of damage to small vessels, referred to as microvascular disease.
  • Diabetes also is an important factor in accelerating the hardening and narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis), leading to strokes, coronary heart disease, and other large blood vessel diseases. This is referred to as macrovascular disease.
  • From an economic perspective, the total annual cost of diabetes in 2012 was estimated to be 245 billion dollars in the United States. This included 116 billion in direct medical costs (healthcare costs) for people with diabetes and another 69 billion in other costs due to disability, premature death, or work loss.
  • Medical expenses for people with diabetes are over two times higher than those for people who do not have diabetes. Remember, these numbers reflect only the population in the United States. Globally, the statistics are staggering.
  • Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States listed on death certificates in recent years. Read More

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