Sedentary lifestyle, obesity, and high calorie diet have always been associated with higher risk of diabetes mellitus and insulin resistance. Scientists have shown long ago that physical exercise and weight loss can eliminate the risk and even slow the progression of already existing diabetes. Here we are talking about insulin-independent type of diabetes mellitus (type 2), in which tissues are less responsive to insulin, rather than type 1 in which certain cells of pancreas are unable to produce enough insulin.
A New Drug to Mimic the Effects of Physical Exercise
Physical activity acts on glucose metabolism by activating certain metabolic pathways, but what if we could design a drug that mimics those effects? That is exactly what the researchers from niversité Laval Faculty of Medicine have been up to. They actually have found an analogue of omega-3 fatty acids called protectin DX (PDX) which triggers the same metabolic pathways in muscle cells which are activated by exercise. It stimulates the release of interleukin 6 (IL6) which starts a cascade in the liver leading to lower production of glucose and acts on muscles to reuptake more glucose. This is the exact effect physical exercises have on glucose metabolism.
These findings have been proven on animal models, using mice that lack the gene for IL6 production. As expected, blood glucose regulation and response to PDX in these mice was very poor. Diabetic rats with obesity issues were treated with PDX and showed great improvement. As far as we know now, these effects are limited to modulation of muscle metabolism and its utilization of glucose. Many other drugs are designed for this sole purpose and they are used in standard treatment plans for persons with diabetes.
Professor Marette and Université Laval warns that although this approach may be useful for patients with type 2 diabetes in terms of better distribution of glucose through the body, it is by no means a replacement of regular physical activity. Physical exercises have many other benefits on cardiovascular system, musculoskeletal system, and hormonal balance.
No definite cure for diabetes mellitus is currently available, although research community is giving it a great emphasis, due to high and increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes, especially in developed countries.