"Although the molecule mimics some of the effects of physical exercise on blood glucose regulation, it should not be treated as an alternative to physical activity."
London, May 13 - In a ray of hope for people suffering from diabetes, researchers have discovered a natural molecule, a derivative of omega-3 fatty acids, that could be used to treat insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Its efficacy may be comparable with that of certain drugs currently prescribed to control glycemia, said professor Andre Marette of Laval University in France.
Omega-3 fatty acids are known to help reduce insulin resistance caused by a diet high in saturated fat.
In their earlier work, the researchers had linked these effects to a bioactive lipid called protectin D1.
In investigating further, they discovered that another member of the same family named protectin DX - triggers the production and release of interleukin 6 - in muscle cells, a response that also occurs during physical exercise.
Once in the bloodstream, IL-6 controls glucose levels in two ways: it signals to the liver to reduce glucose production and acts directly on the muscles to increase glucose uptake, Marette explained.
For the study, the researchers used transgenic mice lacking the IL-6 gene to demonstrate the link between PDX and IL-6.
PDX had very little effect on the control of blood glucose in these animals.
In similar tests conducted on obese diabetic rats, PDX was shown to dramatically improve responsiveness to insulin, the hormone which regulates blood glucose.
The mechanism of action described for PDX represents a new therapeutic strategy for improving glucose control, Marette proposed.
Although the molecule mimics some of the effects of physical exercise on blood glucose regulation, it should not be treated as an alternative to physical activity.
The study appeared in the journal Nature Medicine.