Menzies reveal new potential treatment for diabetes

Menzies reveal new potential treatment for diabetes

Menzies' researchers have uncovered potential new treatments for type 2 diabetes. As a result, new drugs to reverse pre-diabetic states and prevent the onset of diabetes may soon be developed.

Menzies' researchers have uncovered potential new treatments for type 2 diabetes. As a result, new drugs to reverse pre-diabetic states and prevent the onset of diabetes may soon be developed.

An estimated 700,000 Australians are affected by diabetes, a disease which currently has no cure, and is predicted to affect over 1.3 million Australians by 2010.

In Tasmania, 40,000 people are affected by diabetes. In addition 65,000 Tasmanians have impaired glucose tolerance or pre-diabetes. Internationally, Tasmanian has one of the highest incidences of diabetes.

 
At Menzies, Associate Professor Stephen Rattigan, Dr Stephen Richards and Dr Michelle Keske are leading a team of fifteen, who are investigating the early events that result in type 2 diabetes.

"We have made novel discoveries in the processes involved in the onset of diabetes. This has revealed new ways in which the disease may potentially be treated," Dr Keske said.

"In collaboration with the University of Virginia, USA, we are able to demonstrate that the hormone insulin (which controls blood sugar) has a major stimulatory effect on blood flow within muscle. "

The increased blood flow within muscle improves access of insulin, and nutrients such as glucose (blood sugar), to the muscle cells that store the glucose.

As much as fifty percent of glucose taken up by muscle in response to insulin may be attributed to this blood flow effect.

Furthermore, this action of insulin in muscle, is absent in conditions such as, obesity and hypertension (high blood pressure), which are associated with insulin resistance (a pre-diabetic state).

"We are now actively investigating how insulin causes this blood flow effect, with a view to finding ways of enhancing it," Dr Richards said.

"As a result new drugs that reverse the impairment in insulin resistant states and prevent the onset of diabetes may soon be discovered."

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes and usually affects adults, but current Australian trends show younger people including children, are now developing the condition more frequently.

Alfred Shutlar was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes after a routine medical check.  Alfred met his wife Barbara after taking up ballroom dancing, to improve his health and manage his diabetes.

"I started to learn to dance after my diabetes educator told me I needed to be more active, or otherwise I would end up losing my feet or my eyesight! I joined a couple of dancing clubs," Alfred said.

"You have to choose something that gets you moving. When you've found an activity you enjoy, it takes over like an infectious disease - it's amazing how it makes you feel!"

These research findings are having wide international impact. They have been published in more than 100 articles in major international scientific journals and presented at prestigious international conferences, including the American Diabetes Association.

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