Researchers identify new pathway to solve insulin dependency

Whether an individual has type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, they are often burdened by the need to take insulin to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. However, a team of researchers from Children's Hospital in Boston has shown that it may be possible to control blood sugar without needing to inject insulin.

The team reported in the journal Nature Medicine that a protein called XBP-1s can help regulate blood sugar levels when activated in the liver. In their trials, the study showed that this helped participants, whether they had type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, maintain normal blood sugar levels.

For the study, researchers treated a group of laboratory mice that had diabetes with a compound that increased the presence of XBP-1s in the liver. They found that higher levels of XBP-1s caused another protein, FoxO1, to degrade. FoxO1 signals the liver to put more sugar into the blood stream and is responsible for causing feelings of hunger.

By limiting this protein through higher levels of XBP-1s, the researchers were able to control the blood sugar levels of their diabetic mouse subjects without having to inject them with insulin.

"Activating XBP-1s could be another approach to type 2 diabetes, and could be very beneficial for type 1 diabetes, too," said Umut Ozcan, who led the study. "This suggests that approaches that activate XBP-1s in the liver of type 1 diabetics could control blood glucose levels, with potentially much less requirement for insulin."

He added that he and his team are currently looking at ways to stimulate the activation of XBP-1s in humans, with the goal of soon conducting a clinical trial. The new medication could be a major benefit to those who are dependent on insulin injections.