Scientists Reverse and Prevent Type 2 Diabetes ...in Mice
It's exciting research, published in the esteemed journal Nature recently and carried out by researchers from the Karolinska Institute (in Sweden), the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (based in New York), and the Australian biopharmaceutical company CSL Limited:
By blocking the activity of a signaling protein found on the surface of cells called VEGF-B, scientists were able to prevent fat from accumulating in muscles and in the heart, allowing cells in those tissues to respond to insulin.
Consequently, in some cases they managed to prevent type 2 diabetes from developing, and in other cases, they actually reversed the disease altogether in mice with "established" type 2 diabetes.
Nature went so far as to say that this is "a breakthrough in diabetes research," and that's a fair description. But a description a little more accurate might be that it is a breakthrough in the epidemic of laboratory-caused and created type 2 diabetes in mice.
In 2010, this research team, headed by Professor Ulf Eriksson, reported that VEGF-B (a protein they discovered in 1995) plays an important role in the transportation and storage of fat within body tissue, a finding that led to this latest research.
"We've shown that VEGF-B inhibition can be used to prevent and treat type II diabetes, and that this can be done with a drug candidate," said the professor.
A Drug Candidate
The drug candidate is known as 2H10. It is being developed by one of the parties listed above, CSL Limited.
2H10 is a monoclonal antibody. Monoclonal antibodies are drugs (ok, antibodies) created from a single clone of cells. There are a handful currently approved for use in the US today, most commonly for cancers. Rituxan (rituximab) is probably the most widely known and most successful monoclonal antibody on the market today; it has vastly improved patient outcomes in the treatment of several subtypes of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma of B-cell origin.
But sometimes monoclonal antibodies don't work out in humans. A couple have been removed from the market after it was determined they were doing awful things to patients, and even the star performer among them, Rituxan, carries with it a host of adverse side effects, ranging from immunosuppression to major organ problems, and even the development of a very rare and fatal brain virus.
Delivering in Humans
It is certainly amazing that these researchers have managed to prevent or reverse type 2 diabetes in rats. Current treatments for type 2 diabetes are rather weak, and there is a need for something new-- something other than bariatric surgery, for instance-- and who knows, maybe 2H10 is it.
To find out, some people are going to have to sign up and try it out. The jump from pre-clinical to clinical trials in scientist speak is the move from animal model to humans. Many might be surprised at the wealth of substances that are effective in mice, or in petri dishes. Humans are vastly different. Things rarely work out quite like we would like when that jump is made.
For that reason it is so important that people visit the government's Clinical Trials page, a massive registry and results database for clinical trials held all over the world, and search for one that might be a good fit. Adult participation in clinical trials is extraordinarily low, yet it is in those trials that the true breakthroughs are made and the true life-altering medical advances occur.