Boosting vitamin D — often referred to as the sunshine vitamin because it is created in our skin in response to direct sunlight — can help tackle diabetes, according to a study from the Salk Institute.
The condition is caused by faulty beta cells in the pancreas. These cells manufacture and release insulin, the hormone essential for controlling glucose levels in the blood.
If beta cells produce too little insulin, or none at all, glucose can accumulate in the blood at levels that are toxic to cells and tissues.
Researchers from the Salk Institute have reported a potential new approach for treating diabetes by protecting beta cells.
Previous studies have found a connection between low vitamin D levels and a higher risk of diabetes, but the mechanisms involved have been challenging to unravel.
The researchers found that a particular compound — called iBRD9 — boosted the activity of vitamin D receptors when they were bound to vitamin D molecules. This had a protective effect on the beta cells.
They demonstrated that, in a mouse model of diabetes, iBRD9 brought glucose levels back down into the normal range.
When beta cells become dysfunctional, the body can’t make insulin to control blood sugar (glucose) and levels of glucose can rise to dangerous, even fatal, levels.
“We know that diabetes is a disease caused by inflammation,” explained senior author Ronald Evans adding, “In this study, we identified the vitamin D receptor as an important modulator of both inflammation and beta cell survival.”
The team accomplished this by conducting a screening test to look for compounds that improved the survival of beta cells in a dish. They then tested the combination in a mouse model of diabetes and showed that it could bring glucose back to normal levels in the animals.
“This study started out by looking at the role of vitamin D in beta cells,” said first author Zong Wei. “Epidemiological studies in patients have suggested a correlation between high vitamin D concentrations in the blood and a lower risk of diabetes, but the underlying mechanism was not well understood. It’s been hard to protect beta cells with the vitamin alone. We now have some ideas about how we might be able to take advantage of this connection.”
The underlying process has to do with transcription the way that genes are translated into proteins. Combining the new compound with vitamin D allowed certain protective genes to be expressed at much higher levels than they are in diseased cells.
The discovery’s implications can have far-reaching implications: It identifies a basic mechanism that can be translated into drugging many different targets in the clinic.
The findings appeared in the journal Cell.
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Diabetes drug might ease heart failure risk
A new research has showed that the diabetes drug Farxiga might do double-duty for patients, helping to ward off another killer, heart failure.
According to the findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine to coincide with their presentation at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Chicago, Type 2 diabetics who took Farxiga saw their odds of hospitalization for heart failure drop by 27 percent compared to those who took a placebo.
Farxiga is a type of drug called a SGLT2 inhibitor. The compound is called dapagliflozin.
The study included more than 17,000 type 2 diabetes patients aged 40 and older. Nearly 7,000 had heart disease and more than 10,000 had numerous risk factors for heart disease, Wiviott’s group said.
Patients were randomly assigned to take a dummy placebo pill or 10 milligrams of Farxiga each day.
“When it comes to helping our patients control and manage blood glucose, the ‘how’ appears to be as important [as] the ‘how much,” said study author Dr Stephen Wiviott, a cardiovascular medicine specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
“When choosing a therapy, trial results like these can help us make an informed decision about what treatments are not only safe and effective for lowering blood glucose but can also reduce risk of heart and kidney complications,” Wiviott said in a hospital news release.
Taking the drug did not reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular-related death, the research team noted. However, patients who took the drug did see healthy declines in their blood sugar levels, plus an added bonus: a 27 percent decrease in their risk of hospitalization for heart failure.
Their risk of kidney failure and death from kidney failure also fell, researchers noted.
Two other recent studies of this class of drugs show that they “robustly and consistently improve heart and kidney outcomes in a broad population of patients with diabetes,” Wiviott noted.
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