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Mouse Study Hints at New Path for Diabetes Treatment
Date:4/12/2012

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, April 12 (HealthDay News) -- A potential new treatment for type 2 diabetes targets the hormone glucagon instead of insulin, according to a new study in mice.

Although the research hasn't yet progressed past animal models of the disease, initial results suggest that the novel therapy can lower blood sugar, decrease insulin resistance, lower cholesterol and help keep fatty deposits from settling in the liver.

What's more, the researchers didn't see any adverse effects from the treatment.

"A new target for the adverse effects of glucagon on diabetes has been identified, and with treatment we got rid of all the bad stuff, but didn't cause side effects," said the study's lead author, Dr. Ira Tabas, a distinguished professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, in New York City.

Results of the study are published in the April 12 online edition of Cell Metabolism.

Glucagon is a hormone whose main role is to protect the body and brain from low blood-sugar levels during periods of fasting, such as overnight. It is produced by the alpha cells in the pancreas, Tabas said. When the alpha cells in the pancreas sense dropping blood sugar and insulin levels, they secrete glucagon, which in turn, causes the liver to produce glucose to feed the brain and body.

Normally, glucagon only kicks in when you're starving, because it senses low insulin levels. But, in type 2 diabetes, the body becomes resistant to insulin, so even though insulin is present, the liver thinks the body has no glucose because the insulin isn't helping get glucose into the body's cells the way it should, Tabas explained. That causes the liver to send out a signal for glucagon, and then the liver releases more sugar. "It just turns into a horrible feedback cycle," he said.

Commenting on the study, Dr. Vivian Fonseca, president of medicine and science at the American
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