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Mice 'cured' of diet-induced diabetes

Mice  cured  of diet-induced diabetes Genetic manipulation repairs liver damage and restores insulin levels

Scientists at Oregon State University have essentially cured mice of a mild form of diet-induced diabetes by stimulating the production of a particular enzyme.

This technique relies on genetic manipulation, but if a drug could be found to produce the same effect then it could be a first step in a cure suitable for humans.

Increasing the level of the enzyme, fatty acid elongase-5, restored normal function to diseased livers in mice, restored normal levels of blood glucose and insulin, and effectively corrected the risk factors incurred with diet-induced diabetes.

The enzyme is part of a family of enzymes called "fatty acid elongases" which play an important role in body functions such as metabolism, inflammation, cognitive function, cardiovascular health, reproduction, vision and other metabolic processes.

In mice with diabetes the action of enzymes is often impaired, so the scientists looked at ways in which they could stimulate its action. They used a form of genetic manipulation whereby the missing gene was introduced into the mice by adding it to a virus introduced into the mice.

Commenting on the results, study leader Donald Jump said: "The effect was fairly remarkable and not anticipated. It doesn't provide a therapy yet, but could be fairly important if we can find a drug to raise levels of this enzyme."

"There are already some drugs on the market that do this to a point, and further research in the field would be merited."

Further research is needed to define the exact biological mechanisms at work in this process, and determine what the fatty acids do that affects carbohydrate and triglyceride metabolism. It appears that high fat diets suppress elongase-5 activity.

The study was published in the Journal of Lipid Research.

This article was published on Wed 14 July 2010

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