Medical Minute 10-11: A Cure for Diabetes: Medicine's Next Big Thing?

By: Melissa Medalie Email
By: Melissa Medalie Email

What does a teenage heartthrob, a talk-show host, and a silver screen beauty have in common? Diabetes. Pricks, shots, and pumps are part of the daily routine for them and 23 million Americans. That includes Earl Rutledge. His diabetes led to a foot ulcer and almost an amputation.

"When I started walking, I started dragging my foot, just to compensate for the pain and stuff," said Earl Rutledge.

Now, for the first time, researchers are using diabetes and "cure" in the same sentence.

Doctor Donald Jump at Oregon State University eliminated diet-induced diabetes -- or type two diabetes -- in lab mice.

"We saw that certain enzymes were being repressed by the high-fat diet," said Donald B. Jump, Ph.D., Oregon State University Corvallis, OR.

The enzyme he's talking about is called fatty acid elongase-five. The more fat we eat, the less of the enzyme we produce. So, when researchers boosted the production of the enzyme in mice livers, they were cured of their diabetes in five days.

"The animals' hyperglycemia disappeared, and their fatty liver disappeared, and their insulin resistance disappeared. We were very dazzled by this outcome."

The lab's focus now turns to what's called mechanism: Why did this work?

In the Meantime, Earl's out walking again thanks to standard therapy, but he still fights the diabetes battle daily. Now, science is one step closer to a cure for a disease that impacts nearly one in 10 Americans.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT: Donald B. Jump, Ph.D.Oregon State University Corvallis, ORDonald.Jump@Oregonstate.edu


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