To say diabetes is a major problem in today’s society would be the ultimate understatement. Diabetes is everywhere you look and almost everyone is either affected personally by it or knows someone who is. Type 1 diabetes, the condition in which the pancreas does not produce insulin, has been around for a while. But not too long ago, Type 2 diabetes was not only unheard of, it wasn’t even a thing. Type 2 diabetes is usually caused by poor diet, lack of exercise, and simply being in poor overall health. It is sometimes called “adult onset diabetes,” but now Type 2 diabetes is running so rampant in children that some projections have this generation of children dying before their parents because their health is so poor and early onset Type 2 diabetes is that harmful. Whereas Type 1 diabetes involves the body not being able to make insulin, Type 2 diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance. The body is making enough of it, but the cells are not responding to it and utilizing it properly. Whereas Type 1 diabetes is all about lack of production, Type 2 diabetes is about poor utilization and recognition. Insulin is the hormone your body releases in order to get sugar out of your blood and into your tissues. If you are either not making it or are not responding to it, sugar builds up in the blood.
Both types of diabetes can and do have serious health complications, and can lead to death (diabetes is the #7 killer in the United States). Short of death though, diabetes leads to chronically high blood sugar which has major negative health consequences, including organ failure and blindness. However, a team of researchers at Harvard may have just made a discovery that will revolutionize the treatment of diabetes. The team of researchers has recently discovered a previously unknown hormone, called betatrophin, which promotes the growth of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. These are exactly the cells that Type 1 diabetics lack and/or are severely damaged, and the cells that eventually can become damaged in Type 2 diabetics as well.
So this is definitely good news, but it is good news that is in the very early stages. Simply discovering the hormone is the first step on a long journey. Scientists’ next challenge now that the discovery has been made is to figure out how to administer it. Although scientists can currently produce the hormone, they haven’t yet been able to figure out how to make it soluble and extract it. They also do not know how to best and most effectively administer it, and get it to work when injected into the human body. And it may not be a total cure-all. Perhaps Type 1 diabetics’ beta cells are too damaged or non-existent to be helped by betatrophin. And perhaps Type 2 diabetics’ major problems, effectively recognizing and utilizing insulin, would not be helped by more insulin-producing cells.
So while betatrophin may not be a panacea for diabetics, at least immediately, it is a very promising discovery that could revolutionize the treatment of diabetes. It’s exciting, in part, because it represents a different direction to diabetes treatment as well. Instead of injected insulin or using medication to try and help the body recognize insulin, betatrophin could get right at the source of the problem and encourage the natural production of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Either way, diabetes is a major health concern in the United States right now. Affecting both men and women, young and old, across all ethnicities, diabetes is wreaking havoc on American culture. About 26 million people in America are currently diagnosed with the disease (according to the CDC), with about 90% of them having Type 2 diabetes. Additionally, countless other millions have a condition known as “pre-diabetes” that signals that one is on the path to full-blown Type 2 diabetes unless major diet and lifestyle changes are made. Right now the situation with diabetes is a very dark and tragic one, but this new discovery of betatrophin may just represent the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel and parting of the clouds. Only time will tell.
Article Courtesy: Andrew Steingrube
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