In rodents with type 2 diabetes, a single surgical injection of a protein called fibroblast growth factor 1 can restore blood sugar levels to normal for weeks or months--yet how this growth factor acts in the brain to generate this lasting benefit has been poorly understood. Clarifying how this occurs might lead to more effective diabetes treatments that tap into the brain's inherent potential to ameliorate the condition. "Until recently, the brain's ability to normalize elevated blood sugar levels in diabetic animals was unrecognized," said Michael Schwartz, MD, Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington (UW) School of Medicine and Co-Director of the UW Medicine Diabetes Institute. "By interrogating cellular and molecular responses induced in the hypothalamus by a brain peptide called fibroblast growth factor 1, our international teams' latest findings chart a path towards a more complete understanding how this effect is achieved.” “These insights," he said, "may one day inform therapeutic strategies for inducing sustained diabetes remission, rather than simply lowering blood sugar levels on a day-to-day basis as current treatments do." Type 2 diabetes affects 10% of the U.S. population. It is closely tied to obesity and causes serious health problems including heart disease, vision loss, kidney failure, dementia, difficult-to-cure infections, and nerve damage. It also increases the risk of needing amputations. Control of blood sugar levels can prevent these problems, but is often hard to achieve and becomes an ongoing struggle for many patients. In two companion papers, published online on September 7, 2020 in Nature Communications and Nature Metabolism, international teams of researchers describe the intricate biology of the brain's response to fibroblast growth factor 1.
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