Researchers from the University of Utah and Merck have discovered a possible new treatment for type 2 diabetes. It all lies in ceramides.
In the study, scientists were able to keep obese mice healthy and free of diabetes by removing their ceramides. Researchers hope that this research can lead to human trials and a new drug to combat diabetes and heart disease.
How ceramides work
When people overeat, the body stores fats. When there gets to be too much, the fats are stored in the heart, liver, and pancreatic cells, where excess fat can be harmful.
Ceramides are a type of fat molecule that protects cells from excess fat. But ceramides in large quantities can lead to chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease because they decrease metabolic function.
How the study worked
In the study, researchers removed the ceramide gene completely from certain mice. From others, they edited the DNA of the mice to remove the ceramide gene. The control group kept the ceramide gene and were given a drug to remove ceramide.
The mice who had the gene removed before they were born did not fare well. Of the mice whose DNA was edited, they were healthy and lived for over a year.
One of the methods used to make the mice overweight was feeding them cookie dough. Others were obese due to lacking the gene leptin.
Removing the ceramides allowed the mice to be healthy and live well, even while obese. They were able to manage blood sugar well and did not develop diabetes symptoms. This study marks the first time scientists have discovered a way to reduce ceramides that is effective and not harmful.
The researchers are hopeful for a drug to be developed in the next few years. They also received a grant from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) to research reversing type 1.