A team of researchers at the U of A recently found what could be a breakthrough in the treatment for type-2 diabetes. And a lot of it has to do with the liver. We learned more from the U of A’s Dr. Benjamin Renquist, a key member of the research team.
“Type 2 diabetes occurs in people with obesity. Most commonly is when the pancreatic beta cells start to fail, and they’re no longer able to produce enough insulin to maintain your blood glucose in the proper range,” Renquist said.
What did the research find?
“The brain is the Grand Central Station of metabolism. It’s where all of the nutrients pass through. It produces nutrients for the rest of the body. It also helps to take up nutrients when there’s an excess. So we want to understand how it’s affecting glucose homeostasis and glucose metabolism in type two diabetes. A lot of people had already shown and a number of investigators had already shown, that fatty livers, the amount of fat that builds up in the liver was associated with type 2 diabetes, both the severity of it, and how often they occur. So our research was focused on understanding that better,” Renquist said.
What does the liver do?
“Normally the liver is very important in breaking down an inhibitory neurotransmitter called GABA and in obesity, the liver actually shifts over and starts producing that GABA, and then that acts on nerves that communicate between the liver and the brain to change, glucose homeostasis,” Renquist said.
A clinical trial is being done with an FDA approved drug. The research team hopes to conclude the clinical trial within a year.
The research found the liver may be the place to target instead of the pancreas, “so long as we can prevent our drugs from crossing into the brain, we should be able to fairly safely target the liver and end up with the compound that actually improves life for the 50% of Arizona’s that are type 2 diabetic or pre diabetic,” Renquist said.