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Vitamin D can help tackle diabetes

Raghu Kshitiz

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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.

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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.”

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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.

With Agency Inputs

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Health

Lifestyle increasing cancer

Pratigya Waiju

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KATHMANDU—Smoking, chewing tobacco, poor diet and lack of exercise are the leading risk factor for increasing cancer cases.

Nepal’s two biggest cancer centers, BP Koirala Memorial Cancer Hospital (BPKMCH) in Bharatpur, Chitwan and Bhaktapur cancer Hospital (BCH) in Kathmandu Valley, recorded a total of 19,433 new cases in 2017.

BPKMCH, which started with 100 beds in 2000, recently added 34 new beds, bringing the total number of beds to 228; following a rise in the number of cancer patients.

Lung cancer is the most prevalent cancer among Nepalis, followed by cervix and uteri, breast, stomach, gallbladder, ovary, oesophagus, urinary bladder and thyroid.

Among men, smoking and drinking from early age and chewing tobacco and betel nuts are attributed as the major contributors of Ear, Nose and throat (ENT) cancer.

Both indoor and outdoor pollution are also significant factors affecting people who work in those conditions the most.

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