Gene May Improve Diabetes Care

Written by Bonnie Sanders Polin PhD

Gene May Improve Diabetes Care
An interesting article was recently published about the discovery of a gene that may pave the way to better diabetes care. The September 6, 2009, Nature Genetics article by co-author Dr. Robert Sladek of McGill University, Montréal, describes what this gene has to do with tissues (besides those that we know make insulin in the pancreas).

Rather than reduce the amount of insulin produced, the gene reduces the effect of insulin in muscles, liver, and fat, a process called insulin resistance. When the gene is working well, insulin can start dealing with sugar in the blood; when it doesn’t, the body’s processing of insulin is disrupted.

The researchers hope that by understanding this process, they might be able to find other pathways to turn the insulin reaction on. To learn more, read the McGill University press release here.

Glucose Levels and Coronary Artery Disease
Most of us know that having diabetes raises our risk for developing coronary artery disease and that sometimes newly diagnosed people with diabetes have difficulty controlling blood glucose levels. In an October 2009 issue of Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, Beth E. Cohen and her colleagues explored the connection between glycemic control and coronary heart disease in the article “Association of Glucose Measures with Total and Coronary Heart Disease Mortality: Does the Effect Change with Time?

What the researchers did was look at the association of three glucose measures with heart disease. They examined fasting plasma glucose measures with heart disease. They examined fasting plasma glucose levels, two hour post-challenge glucose levels, and the glycohemoglobin from 1984-1987 in 1,774 adults.

The results indicated that higher levels of glycohemoglobin were associated with cardiovascular mortality within the first six years, independent of cardiac risk factors. This research supports the idea that early glycemic control may affect mortality outcomes when it comes to cardiovascular events.

Artificial Pancreas: Is It On the Horizon?
The last article examines the hypothesis that we are only a few years from an artificial pancreas.

To tell the truth, I was told this many years ago when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Today I wear an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor but the idea of having normal blood glucose levels 24/7 so that hypoglycemic events would be a bad memory is a subject I research as often as possible.

Endocrine Today recently published an article titled, “Closing the loop: Artificial pancreas may be just a few years away.”

There are three things needed for the artificial pancreas: insulin delivery, continuous glucose sensing, and a controller or algorithm that, like the pancreas, regulates the proper amount of insulin needed at the proper time.

Aaron J. Kowalski PhD, the director of metabolic control of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s (JDRF) Artificial Pancreas Project thinks that the process will comes in stages. He believes this could happen within five years.

The current research on the scientific development needed was called “remarkable” by the University of Virginia, where some of the research is being done. There the researchers were focused on post-dinner blood glucose levels through the night, trying to achieve tight control without hypoglycemic events. Those of us with type 1 diabetes know that night time can be anxiety-provoking because our insulin pumps continue with our baseline insulin, regardless of blood glucose levels. And though our continuous glucose monitors can send out alarms, we may not be aware enough to intervene. An insulin pump with glucagon for this time is in the works.

If you are interested in learning more, you may read the full article here.

And to learn more about the pancreas and its impact on insulin and diabetes, read our pancreas overview.