Diabetes is a metabolic disorder marked with increased blood sugar. It puts people at risk of developing other diseases such as heart disease, neuropathy and retinopathy later in life. About 7.3 crore people in India are suffering from diabetes.
Diabetes is of two types: type 1 and type 2.
Type 1 diabetes is the one where the beta cells of the pancreas get destroyed by the immune system while in type 2 diabetes, the body gets resistant to the insulin that is formed in the body. While type 2 diabetes can be prevented by making certain lifestyle changes, type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented. However, scientists have recently found two different and effective ways to deal with type 1 diabetes.
Artificial pancreas to manage type 1 diabetes
In a study published in New England Journal of Medicine on 26 August, scientists claimed that they have developed a new artificial pancreas system above which monitors and regulates the blood glucose levels on its own in children with type 1 diabetes.
The artificial pancreas (also called closed-loop control) is a diabetes management system which not only tracks the blood sugar levels with the help of a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) but also delivers insulin to the body whenever required, using an insulin pump.
To test its effectiveness, the scientists enrolled 101 children between the age of six and thirteen. The children were divided into two groups; the experimental group, who were given the new artificial pancreas system and the control group, who were given a standard CGM and insulin pump. The scientists collected the data of the children every other week for four months.
The results of the study showed that the ones who used the artificial pancreas system showed 7 percent improvement in the blood glucose levels during daytime and 26 percent improvement during nighttime, as compared to the control group.
An overall improvement of 11 percent was seen in the subjects who used the artificial pancreas.
The scientists believe that with this system, a diabetic person would no longer require the fingerstick system for testing the blood glucose or multiple daily injections for insulin delivery.
Block the nerve signals
So far, we know that the immune system attacks the beta cells present in the pancreas, which results in type 1 diabetes. No one knows exactly what triggers this attack.
It has been noticed that many of these beta cells are destroyed in big patches while the other beta cells remain untouched. Scientists from the La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) have found that the nervous system of the body could be responsible for this patchy destruction of beta cells.
In order to test their theory, the scientists used a mouse model to visualise the cause behind the death of the beta cells. In this study, the scientists denervated the mice, which means they damaged the nerve sensations of their body either surgically or with the use of a neurotoxin. This was done to block the nerve signals to the pancreas. The researchers then continuously monitored the pattern of beta-cell death in the living mice.
The results of the study showed that after blocking the nerve signals to the pancreas, the beta-cell death was negligible compared to the other set of mice who were either given no treatment or were given only beta-blockers.
Without the nerves, the immune cells were unable to find the beta cells, thus they remained protected. However, scientists believe that more study needs to be done on this to test this method on humans.
For more information, read our article on Diabetes.
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