Using leptin alone in place of standard insulin therapy shows promise in abating symptoms of type 1 diabetes, UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers report.
UT Southwestern researchers, using mouse models, found that leptin administered instead of insulin showed better management of blood-sugar variability and lipogenesis, the conversion of simple sugars into fatty acids. Leptin is a hormone produced by fat cells and involved in the regulation of body weight.
Dr. Roger Unger, professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern, led the study whose findings are available online and in a future issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Insulin treatment has been the gold standard for type 1 diabetes (insulin-dependent diabetes) in humans since its discovery in 1922. Dr. Unger's laboratory found that insulin's benefit resulted from its suppression of glucagon, a hormone produced by the pancreas that raises blood sugar levels in healthy individuals.
"Insulin cells are destroyed in people with type 1 diabetes, however, and matching the high insulin levels needed to reach glucagon cells with insulin injections is possible only with amounts that are excessive for other tissues," said Dr. Unger, senior author of the latest study. "Peripherally injected insulin cannot accurately duplicate the normal process by which the body produces and distributes insulin."
People on insulin therapy tend to experience large swings in blood-sugar levels, said Dr. Unger. Other studies have shown that frequent blood-sugar variation complicates the symptoms of type 1 diabetes, which affects about 1 million people in the U.S.