Researchers find diabetes trigger, possible fix
By Raja Mishra, Globe Staff | January 31, 2005
Researchers in Boston have pinpointed a primary trigger for the most common form of diabetes and have uncovered evidence that simple, inexpensive aspirin-like drugs could keep the disease that affects millions in check.
The researchers, from Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, discovered a genetic ''master switch" in the liver that is turned on when people become obese. Obesity has long been linked to diabetes, but the reason, until now, has been unknown. Joslin researchers found that once on, this switch produces low-level inflammation, which disrupts the body's ability to process insulin, causing type 2 diabetes.
But the researchers took the finding one step further. Reasoning that aspirin-like drugs are used to quell inflammation, they successfully used the drugs, called salicylates, to eliminate the symptoms of type 2 diabetes in mice. Human tests are already underway in Boston, though no results have been published.
''These drugs, among the safest drugs known, can do a surprisingly good job of toning down this inflammation," said Joslin researcher Dr. Steven E. Shoelson, lead author of the paper. ''These are hopeful ideas for the future."
Shoelson warned against rushing out to get salicylates. Their effectiveness has been proved thus far only in mice.
''No one should go out and take these drugs," said Shoelson. He said losing weight, exercising, and eating healthy are the obvious things to do.
Nonetheless, researchers at Joslin were excited about their findings and are preparing federal grant requests to fund a major, multicity trial of salicylate therapy for type 2 diabetes. And there are indications that the drugs could also help stave off heart disease.
I have a couple of family members that are diabetic, and I know that this has to make them happy. It may not cure them, but it may help prevent it.
I hope so...