Brain may play key role in development of diabetes
In an article in the latest issue of Nature, researchers from four universities suggest that normal glucose regulation relies on “highly coordinated interactions” between the brain and insulin-producing islets in the pancreas. If this is the case, it could open the door to many new treatment options for type 2 diabetes.
The idea that the brain might play a role in insulin regulation was first brought to light in 1920, but the focus shifted exclusively to insulin, and so all treatments for type 2 diabetes are developed either to increase insulin or to increase the body’s sensitivity to it.
The study's authors argue that type 2 diabetes is the result of failure of both the pancreatic islet cell system and this brain-centered system for regulating blood sugar levels. According to the research, the brain system is the one most likely to fail first. This puts pressure on the islet system, which can compensate and carry on for a while, but then also fails, causing further decompensation in the brain system. The result is a vicious cycle of deterioration that ends in type 2 diabetes.
While the researchers recognize the necessity of insulin to reduce blood sugar back to normal levels, they believe what’s happening in the brain also needs to be addressed to control, and possibly even reverse, the disease.