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Research on Curing Type 2 Diabetes

written by: lrohner • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 1/31/2011

Research in curing type 2 diabetes continues as the prevalence of the disease increases. With close to eight percent of the United States' population now suffering from diabetes and another 18 million in pre-diabetes, a cure will have significant impact on the country's health.

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    Type 2 diabetes, the most common type of this disease, has no known cure. There are specific risk factors for the disease, including genetics, race, age and obesity, although the specific cause remains unknown. The disease, characterized by the body's inability to effectively utilize insulin, is treatable and preventable by maintaining the right weight for your height, eating a heart-healthy diet and participating in a steady regimen of physical activity.

    Research into cures for the disease is ongoing, funded by several organizations including the American Diabetes Association and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

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    Massachusetts General Hospital

    Massachusetts General Hospital is known for having the largest research department of any academic hospital. Led by several top researchers, the department has spent 30 years looking into programs to prevent and to cure the especially complex type 2 diabetes. Although the general concensus among its researchers is that a cure for the disease does not seem likely in the short-term, research continues.

    Since the insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes eventually destroys the beta cells in the pancreas responsible for insulin production, current research centers around the regeneration and new growth of beta cells. Recent discoveries include a co-activator of Bridge 1, also known as the insulin gene, and new functions of the Hedgehog protein.

    These discoveries are central to the design of new drug therapies intended to boost insulin production, and in restoring beta cell function in people with diabetes.

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    Washington University in St. Louis

    Dr. Marc Hammerman is leading the research in curing type 2 diabetes at Washington University in St. Louis. Hammerman and his co-researcher, Sharon Rogers, are known experts in the field of organogenesis, a science that focuses on growing new organs from stem cells and embryonic cell clusters.

    Their research was successful in curing a disease that closely resembles type 2 diabetes in lab rats by transplanting primordial cells that grew into insulin-producing cells without setting off attacks by the animals' immune systems. One of the keys to the success of their research was using pig pancreatic primordia. They found that when harvested early in the pigs' development stages, the cells became invisible to the rats' immune systems.

    This research continues to show promise, although human trials have not yet been undertaken.

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    UK Research

    Focusing on the problems caused by obesity in many type 2 diabetics, UK researchers Dr. Carel la Roux and Dr. Richard Welbourn used bariatric surgery as the basis for their research into a cure for type 2 diabetes.

    They performed gastric bypass surgery on 34 type 2 diabetics. Within two years, most patients saw weight loss of up to one-third of their body weight, and 72 percent of the patients saw their diabetes go into full remission. Follow-up research concluded that insulin resistance in the patients had decreased and insulin production overall had increased.

    It is well-known that there are clear links between obesity and type 2 diabetes, but La Roux's research showed that obesity alone is not the cause. During the study, most patients' diabetes began to go into remission well before significant weight loss was seen.

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    References

    Massachusetts General Hospital: Program to Cure Diabetes

    Medical News Today: Cure For Type 2 Diabetes May Be In Sight

    Washington University in St. Louis: Transplant Cures Rats' Type 2 Diabetes