Global Effort Provides Hope for Hypoglycemia Treatment

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Thanks to the work of researchers on both sides of the Atlantic, patients with hypoglycemia may soon have a new tool that can help them keep their condition under control.

A press release from the University of Michigan notes that researchers there, working with a team from the University of Aberdeen, have found a new brain pathway that can help patients keep their blood sugar at a safe and healthy level.

The pathway was found in the parabrachial nucleus, which produces cholecystokinin (CCK), which the release noted, “acts as a crucial sensor of blood glucose levels.”

Lora K. Heisler, PhD, Chair of Human Nutrition at the Rowett Institute of Nutrition & Health at the European schoo,l said, “It is remarkable to find that such an incredibly small set of cells in the brain play such an important role in maintaining normal glucose levels.”

While CCK has been shown to help control aspects like appetite and anxiety, the authors said this is the first time it has been linked to the ability to maintain blood sugar levels.

“The discovery of the important function of this brain hormone raises the possibility of using drugs targeting the CCK system to boost defences against hypoglycaemia, the clinical syndrome that results from low blood sugar,” noted Martin G. Myers Jr., MD, PhD.” Myers, one of the authors of the study, also serves as the Marily H. Vincent Professor in Diabetes Research at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Diabetes Center.

“When patients suffer repeated bouts of hypoglycemia they can develop ‘unawareness,’ which means they find it difficult to detect symptoms that their blood sugar levels are falling and it is this group particularly that we hope could benefit from our findings in regard to the role played by CCK,” said Heisler.

The press release noted that approximately 20% of diabetes patients also suffer from hypoglycemia. The authors said further research will be needed to see how the CCK system can be used to prevent or treat hypoglycemia.

Along with the Aberdeen and Michigan teams, groups from the University of Cambridge and University of Edinburgh, as well as the University of Chicago, also assisted the research.

The study was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, the American Diabetes Association, the Wellcome Trust, the Animal Phenotyping Core of the Michigan Diabetes Research Center, and the Michigan Nutrition and Obesity Research Center.

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