Dr. Maria Muccioli holds degrees in Biochemistry and Molecular and Cell Biology and has over ten years of research experience in the immunology field. She is currently a professor of biology at Stratford University and a science writer at Diabetes Daily. Dr. Maria has been living well with type 1 diabetes since 2008 and is passionate about diabetes research and outreach.
In this recurring article series, Dr. Maria will present some snapshots of recent diabetes research, and especially exciting studies than may fly under the mainstream media radar.
Even Very Slightly Elevated Blood Glucose May Impact Beta Cells
When diabetes first develops, a reduction in insulin production initially results in just a slight elevation of blood glucose. A just-published study by researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center employed cell culture and mouse models to assess how very slight elevations in blood glucose levels might affect the beta cells. Interestingly, the scientists discovered that even slight perturbations in glycemia (*as little as “being only 11 mg/dL higher than controls) could result in gene expression changes in the beta cells. The major conclusion of the investigation was that “mild glucose elevations in the early stages of diabetes lead to phenotypic changes that adversely affect beta cell function, growth, and vulnerability.” Continuing to investigate exactly how the early stages of diabetes may affect disease progression may aid in the development of treatments aimed at slowing or halting disease progression by preserving or improving beta cell function. This study also underscores the importance of early diabetes detection and treatment.
Different Subtypes of Type 1 Diabetes Classed by Age at Diagnosis
The pathophysiology of type 1 diabetes is complex, although it is generally accepted that in most cases, a genetic predisposition and an environmental trigger result in disease onset. A research study that was recently published in the journal Diabetologia aimed to investigate different subsets (endotypes) of type 1 diabetes by evaluating the level of insulin production from recently-diagnosed patients. Interestingly, the authors report that in patients who were diagnosed prior to age 30, “there are distinct endotypes that correlate with age at diagnosis”. Specifically, the new research showed that those who were diagnosed at a very young age (before seven years old) exhibited more defective insulin processing as compared to those diagnosed at age 13 and older. The scientists believe that stratifying type 1 diabetes cases by endotype will prove useful in the most appropriate design of immunotherapies to treat the condition.
Male and Female Offspring May Be Differently Affected by Maternal Diabetes
Hyperglycemia during pregnancy can negatively affect the offspring. A study published in April 2020 in the journal Brain, Behavior, & Immunity – Health indicates that the effects of hyperglycemia on central nervous system development may affect male and female offspring differently. Notably, the authors concluded that while hyperglycemia could cause developmental defects in males in females, when it came to “impairments in recognition memory,” specifically, it was found that only the females were negatively affected. Although this research was performed in rodents, it offers valuable insights into how maternal diabetes may affect offspring development in a sex-specific way. Notably, it was also demonstrated that insulin administration to achieve strict glycemic control mitigated the negative effects, once again highlighting the importance of optimal glycemic management before and during pregnancy.
Botox Injection Plus High-Protein Diet for Obesity Treatment
Interestingly, the injection of botulinum toxin (Botox) has been shown effective in the treatment of obesity. A research study recently published in the journal Obesity Surgery evaluated the efficacy of botulinum toxin injections alongside a calorie-restricted, high-protein diet for weight loss. Participants were assigned to one of three groups: 1) botulinum toxin treatment only; 2) botulinum toxin treatment + calorie-restricted/high-protein diet; or 3) calorie-restricted/high-protein diet alone. Excitingly, the results showed that patients who received botulinum toxin treatment prior to initiating the diet protocol achieved faster weight loss and experienced more positive effects in improving comorbidities. The authors theorize that botulinum toxin treatment may help “facilitate adaptation to the new diet style”.
“Kitchen Intervention” in Type 2 Diabetes Education Helps Improve Outcomes
Several educational intervention programs aimed at improving glycemic management in patients with type 2 diabetes were compared in a recent initiative by the Milwaukie Family Medicine center in Oregon. A traditional diabetes education class was implemented for one group of patients, while a second group was assigned to the traditional education program, along with a “health-focused, budget-friendly cooking class” provided by the Providence Milwaukie Community Teaching Kitchen. Hemoglobin A1c measurements were acquired at baseline, and at several months post-intervention. The recently published results demonstrated that patients who participated in the cooking class intervention, lowered their A1c levels more, on average, than those who attended the traditional education program alone. Although this initiative was a small one and yields very preliminary results, the outcomes suggest that intervention programs focused on real-life applications (like budgeting and cooking) may afford better patient outcomes.
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