New cause of diabetes revealed
Pig models are becoming increasingly important in medical research into the causes of diseases, and have now shed new light on the causes of diabetes.
In healthy people, glucose concentrations in the blood increase soon after they eat a meal. As a consequence, beta-cells of the pancreas release insulin, which helps to lower blood glucose levels. Type 2 diabetes can develop when the body cannot produce enough insulin to meet its needs.
In recent research, scientists have been investigating the hormone GIP (glucose-dependent insulin-releasing polypeptide) in pigs with type 2 diabetes. The hormone helps in the production and release of insulin. In the past, diabetic patients have been found to be unresponsive to GIP as well as insulin.
Scientists studied the hormone in pigs with a defective GIP pathway. Results showed that systems which could not respond to GIP had fewer beta-cells, resulting in a lower release of insulin. These findings suggest that defective GIP pathways may be a cause of type 2 diabetes rather than a consequence of the disease.
In the UK, type 2 diabetes is becoming increasingly common. The majority of cases are linked to obesity and are more likely to occur in older people. Recently, however an increasing number of children are being diagnosed with diabetes, some as young as 7 years old.