A single injection of a certain protein temporarily reversed symptoms of diabetes in mice, researchers report.
The mice had diet-induced diabetes, which is the equivalent of type 2 diabetes in people. The injection of the protein FGF1 restored their blood sugar levels to a healthy range for more than two days. It also reversed insulin insensitivity, which is the underlying cause of diabetes.
The injection did not cause the kinds of side effects commonly seen with many diabetes medications, according to the Salk Institute scientists, who report their findings in the July 16 issue of Nature.
The findings could help in efforts to develop safer, more effective diabetes drugs for people, the researchers said.
"Controlling glucose [blood sugar] is a dominant problem in our society," study co-corresponding author Ronald Evans, director of Salk's Gene Expression Laboratory in La Jolla, Calif., said in an institute news release. "And FGF1 offers a new method to control glucose in a powerful and unexpected way."
"Many previous studies that injected FGF1 showed no effect on healthy mice," co-corresponding author Michael Downes, a Salk senior staff scientist, said in the news release. "However, when we injected it into a diabetic mouse, we saw a dramatic improvement in glucose."
Much more research is needed before it may be possible to use the protein to develop a drug to treat people with diabetes, the study authors noted. And animal research often does not pan out in human trials.
Nearly 30 million Americans have type 2 diabetes.