New model explains development of type 2 diabetes in humans
8 May 2013
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have developed a model using mice of the onset of type 2 diabetes and how the body responds to drug treatment.
The researchers fed normal mice fatty food over a long period from the age of eight months, ie middle age, until the end of their natural lives at the age of two. The mice became overweight, developed high blood sugar levels and reduced insulin release, as expected before the onset of type 2 diabetes.
“Throughout the period we were able to study the process that leads to the development of type 2 diabetes with a lifestyle like that of people predisposed to the condition”, said researcher Bilal Omar.
“The animal models for type 2 diabetes studies that have previously existed have not been optimal because they use young mice. Our idea was to create a model that resembles the situation in the development of type 2 diabetes in humans. We generally get the disease in middle age when we start to put on weight and live a more sedentary, and more stressful, life. Our new middle-aged mouse model has enabled us to study long-term physiological effects of the development and treatment of type 2 diabetes in a completely new way”, said Bilal Omar, one of the researchers behind the study.
In the study, the researchers could confirm that fatty foods lead to inflammation in the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas, which produce insulin. Researchers have seen inflammation in the islets in people with type 2 diabetes, but in Bilal Omar’s view, it is only with the new mouse model that it can really be confirmed. Inflammation in these islets is an important risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
“What was so interesting and exciting was that the mice that were treated with DPP-4 inhibitors, a class of drugs used for type 2 diabetes, did not develop inflammation and they maintained good insulin production. They were still obese, but had normal blood sugar, were otherwise healthy and lived longer,” said Bilal Omar.
Researchers have worked for decades and on many fronts to understand the causes and course of diabetes. Models of different diseases are therefore an important tool for the development of new and better drugs, and a requirement to develop the best possible drugs is to understand what is happening on a physiological level.
“The goal is to design drugs and treatments which, if they can’t cure the disease, can at least give the patient a better quality of life for several years”, said Bilal Omar.
“Another aspect of our findings is that the inflammation in the islets was caused by a high-fat diet. Even if it is too early to draw parallels with the diet of humans, it makes it doubtful whether a high-fat diet over a long period should be recommended, as in the LCHF diet”, said Professor Bo Ahrén, another of the researchers behind the study.
Omar BA, et al. Enhanced β-cell function and anti-inflammatory effect after chronic treatment with the dipeptidyl peptidase 4 inhibitor vildagliptin in an advanced age diet induced obesity mouse model. Diabetologia, May 2013.