Preventing the breakdown of insulin may be possible with new treatment for type 2 diabetes

A new study out of the Mayo Clinic in Florida suggests that it may be possible to control blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics by preventing the breakdown of insulin, rather than continually working to boost insulin levels.

Individuals with type 2 diabetes tend to have high blood sugar levels because the tissue of their bodies stops responding to the effects of insulin. Higher levels of insulin are needed to produce the same effect on blood sugar. Therefore, most current treatments for the condition work by either injecting the hormone into the system or getting the pancreas to produce more.

However, the findings of the present study, which were published in the journal PLoS ONE, suggest that it may be possible for individuals with type 2 diabetes to control their blood sugar with the insulin they currently have. To achieve this, the researchers proposed developing drugs that block the breakdown of the hormone in the body.

After insulin is produced and released into the bloodstream by the pancreas, enzymes begin to break it down. In healthy people, this process prevents insulin from depressing blood sugar levels too much. However, the researchers said that blocking the action of the insulin-degrading enzymes could prevent glucose levels from rising out of control in type 2 diabetics.

In testing on mice that were genetically altered to lack insulin-degrading enzymes, the researchers showed that preventing the breakdown of insulin molecules resulted in healthier blood sugar levels and lower body weight.

In fact, inhibiting insulin-degrading enzymes worked so well in these mice that many eventually developed complications associated with excessively high levels of the hormone. Therefore, the researchers said that if medications are to be developed that target this process, they would need to be carefully designed to not completely block the enzymes.

While the findings are still preliminary, the researchers said that they represent a possible new avenue in treating type 2 diabetes. This could yield important new knowledge of the condition.

The team is currently working to see if the results of their investigation can be applied to humans with type 2 diabetes.