New clues about how gastric bypass surgery cures type 2 diabetes

Diabetics battling obesity often turn to gastric bypass surgery as a way to fast track weight loss goals and improve health.

While the surgery has been shown to be highly successful for type 2 diabetes treatment, researchers have not been able to say exactly why the procedure is so effective.

Role of the small intestine

Now, a team from Boston Children's Hospital has revealed that the small intestine is a major player in how gastric bypass surgery can turn around type 2 diabetes.

After studying the health of rats that had undergone the procedure and analyzing the way the small intestine processed glucose, the researchers found this critical organ learns to reprogram itself to produce GLUT-1 – a protein that is usually not present before gastric bypass surgery.

GLUT-1 typically operates as a "transporter" by removing glucose from the blood and using it in the intestine. After gastric bypass surgery, however, researchers found that GLUT-1 disposes excess glucose instead of using it, leading to healthier blood sugar levels.

"We have seen type 2 diabetes resolve in humans after gastric bypass, but have never known why," said Nicholas Stylopoulos from the hopsital's endocrinology unit. "People have been focusing on hormones, fat and muscle, but we have shown in this study that the answer lies somewhere in the small intestine most of the time."

Implications for treatment

Based on the research, new ways of "mimicking" the small intestine's reprogramming process might lead to diabetic treatments that do not require surgery.

While gastric bypass surgery has been shown to help cure diabetes, the authors note that it is usually not a long-term cure.

Stylopoulos said:

The results of our study are promising because – unlike the brain and other organs – intestines are easily accessible. Furthermore, since cells in the intestine have such a short lifespan, we can easily study and pharmacologically manipulate them to use glucose without long-term problems.

Results of the study are published in the journal Science.

Source: Medical News Today

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