New approach to the development and treatment of diabetes
Almost one in two people in Europe is overweight, around 10% of the European population suffers from diabetes. Despite the high prevalence, the causes of this serious and widespread disease are not sufficiently understood in detail. A Belgian research team has now found a new piece of the puzzle to unravel this complex process – and a new approach to treatment.
According to a recent study, a disruption in communication between the intestines and the brain is responsible for the hyperglycemia associated with diabetes. (Image: sakurra / stock.adobe.com)
Researchers from the Belgian Catholic University of Louvain have discovered a kind of “jammer” in the communication that takes place between the intestine and the brain. This disorder seems to prevent proper regulation of the balance of sugars and therefore cause insulin resistance. The team also found that certain lipids counteract this dysfunction, which allows the body to better regulate blood sugar levels. The research results were recently presented in the trade journal “GUT”.
Communication between the gut and the brain
The team led by scientists Claude Knauf and Patrice Cani has been analyzing molecular and cellular mechanisms since 2004 with the aim of understanding the causes of type 2 diabetes. In particular, the researchers thus want to identify new therapeutic objectives. The working group is now reporting a promising approach focused on communication between gut bacteria and the brain.
Intestinal to intestinal communication regulates blood sugar
During their years of research, scientists have discovered that communication between the gut and the brain plays a major role in regulating blood sugar.
How the gut and brain regulate sugar levels
In the intestine, useful nutrients such as sugar and fat are filtered from food during the digestive process. As the researchers report, the gut sends a signal to the brain during digestion. With this message, the intestine tells the brain how much sugar and fat is available. The brain transmits this message to various organs, such as the liver, muscles, and fatty tissue. The organs then adjust blood sugar and fat levels according to the signal.
When the intestines stop sending signals
According to the latest study, this process is disrupted in people with diabetes. The intestine does not send any signal or incorrect signals to the brain. The reason is a so-called hypercontractility of the intestine. This means that the muscle tissue in the intestines of diabetics is contracting excessively or intensely. Uncontrolled contractions disrupt the signals sent to the brain, so that the brain no longer gives the command to get sugar out of the blood, which leads to excess sugar (hyperglycemia).
To get to the bottom of the cause of hypercontractility in diabetes, the researchers compared gut bacteria in mice without diabetes. The team also looked at how prebiotics affect the gut flora. The working group found that there was a deficiency of a certain lipid in diabetic mice. The team also confirmed this deficit in people with diabetes.
New active ingredient for diabetes and intestinal inflammation?
The lipid is something called 12-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid (12-HETE). Researchers attribute a key role to this lipid in restoring sugar regulation. They point out that these lipids are essential messenger substances that very precisely target intestinal-brain communication. The team is currently testing whether lipids are suitable for treating diabetes. This could increase the body’s own production or the lipids could be taken in via medication.
What’s more, researchers have discovered a new bioactive lipid that may help reduce intestinal inflammation. This approach will also be explored in other studies. (v)
Author and source information
This text conforms to the requirements of specialized medical literature, medical directives and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.
Graduate Editor (FH) Volker Blasek
UCLouvain: Targeting our second brain to fight diabetes (published: October 6, 2020), uclouvain.be Anne Abot, Eve Wemelle, Claire Laurens, UA: Identification of new enterosynes using prebiotics: roles of bioactive lipids and mu-opioid receptor signaling in humans and mice; in: Gut, 2020, gut.bmj.com
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. It cannot replace a visit to the doctor.