New findings could end the need for type 1 diabetics to take insulin

A team of researchers may have discovered a new mechanism in the digestive tract that could lead to improved treatments for type 1 diabetes. The hormone interaction described has similar functions to insulin, and could spare diabetics from the need for insulin injections.

Researchers from the UT Southwestern Medical Center reported in the journal Science that a hormone known as fibroblast growth factor 19, or FGF19, which was previously thought to only control nutrient metabolism in intestinal bile, may also play a role in controlling blood sugar levels, similar to insulin.

For the study, researchers genetically engineered a group of mice to produce no FGF19. These mice had chronic poor control of blood sugar levels. However, after the researchers injected the subjects with the hormone, their blood sugar control improved.

This could have many benefits over insulin for individuals who suffer from type 1 diabetes. Unlike insulin, FGF19 does not instruct the body to store excess food energy as fat. Instead, it passes through the system as waste. This could help diabetics avoid excess weight gain, which contributes to their chances of developing heart disease, one of the leading causes of death among these individuals.

"The fundamental discovery is that there is a pathway that exists that is required for the body, after a meal, to store glucose in the liver and drive protein synthesis. That pathway is independent of insulin," said Dr. David Mangelsdorf, who led the investigation.

He added that future medications could be developed that act on this hormone, stimulating it to produce healthier blood sugar levels. This could eliminate the need for individuals with type 1 diabetes to take insulin injections.
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