Coming Soon - A cure for Diabetes

A cure for diabetes has long been on the horizon, long-promised but never delivered. Yet this latest burst of diabetes research somehow feels different, a steady stream of diabetes treatment breakthroughs has made the headlines.

Before going into the details of new research, it must be said that most of the research covered here is not yet in human trials but is rather based on animal research.  New treatments arising from this research are unlikely to be available for at least five years, a period of time that, diabetes can do a lot of damage in, - if not treated and managed!

Newly Published Research

One new study highlights the importance of early diagnosis and treatment.  It shows just how damaging Diabetes is for the human brain, and that significant damage has already been done by the time it is diagnosed in many cases.  In type 2 diabetes, which is often considered a consequence of lifestyle choices, and entirely preventable, we are finding out about more risk factors that we are less able to control, one such example is Herpes viruses.

Herpes Viruses - A Risk Factor for Type 2 Diabetes.

In addition, to the long list of risk factors associated with getting type 2 diabetes, contracting Herpes viruses is another one to add to the list. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 3.7 billion people under the age of 50 – or 67% of the world's population – are infected with herpes simplex virus type 1. Although much less common, the HSV-2 virus, which is primarily sexually transmitted, is even more problematic; the study stated:-

“HSV-2 was the strongest association, with those infected being 59 percent more likely to develop prediabetes. While those with CMV were 33 percent more likely to develop prediabetes.”

The good news concerning the Herpes Virus is that a vaccine for the herpes virus is on the horizon and is highly effective in animal models; however, this is at least 2-5 years away at the time of writing.

Moderna’s Herpes mRNA vaccine candidates are also progressing well with a boost for the mRNA vaccine technology, now proven by the pandemic.

A Cure for Type 1 Diabetes.

Approximately 9 million people have type 1 diabetes worldwide, a tiny figure compared to the massive impact of the preventable type 2 diabetes.  Nevertheless, historically, a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, a condition diagnosed most often in the young, has been a life sentence of insulin injections.  The good news is that solutions are now on the horizon.

Genetically engineered cell replacement therapies using stem cells as an alternative source of insulin production lead the way towards providing a cure for type 1 diabetes.  It’s a strategy that numerous groups are pursuing worldwide, two of which have published details of their successes in the first half of 2022.

UBC Health Sciences, in conjunction with Vancouver coastal health in Canada, are trialing a line of stem cells modified to produce insulin while avoiding the toxic immunosuppressive drugs historically required to manage such transplant treatments.  This is possible because the stem cells have been genetically modified to be invisible to the immune system.

The second approach in the United States causes immune cells that identify the stem cell treatment as a foreign entity to self-destruct, as the  University of Missouri immunologist Esma Yolcu explained.  The therapy has only been trialed in primates thus far.  It also differs in the treatment location, with the stem cells transplanted into the omentum, which is a non-vital organ, allowing its removal should undesired complications be encountered," says lead author, Massachusetts General Hospital immunologist Ji Lei.

In both treatments, no long-term immunosuppression would be required, allowing the patient to lead an entirely normal life free from insulin injections.  

It is a cure, but it is still at least five years away.

Yale researchers developed another “cure” for Type 1 diabetes in the form of a simple pill.  An oral treatment is a big step forward in assisting the patient in staying compliant with the treatment. 

The treatment is designed to control immediate blood glucose levels, restore pancreatic function, and re-establish normal immunity in the pancreatic environment.

The pill is composed of materials that our bodies make - bile acids - which means that the medium of delivery has therapeutic effects that work with the loaded agent to reinstate normal metabolism in the short term and restore immune competence in the longer term.

Better treatments for Type 2 Diabetes?

Most of us in our lifetime will suffer from kidney stones; the goto treatment to get rid of them is ultrasound treatment to break those stones down so they can be passed out of the body.  Yes, you guessed it, ultrasound, albeit a more refined version, is one of the latest treatments being trialed for type 2 diabetes.

"We have shown that ultrasound can be used to prevent or reverse diabetes in these preclinical studies," Christopher Puleo from GE Research said in a company press release.

The treatment uses a novel, non-invasive stimulation technique that uses ultrasound to stimulate specific neural pathways within organs that are associated with the disease.  The article was published in Nature Biomedical Engineering.

It's a treatment rather than a cure.

Nitric Oxide Therapy - A New Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes.

A sustained release of nitric oxide is a new treatment being tested at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, USA.

Nitric Oxide is an important gaseous signaling chemical whose most important function in the body is relaxing the inner muscles of blood vessels.  Herein lies its beneficial effect with regards to type 2 diabetes.  

The researchers saw increased phosphorylation of the enzyme hormone-sensitive lipase and a reduction in the size of fat cells in epididymal white adipose tissue, or eWAT. Increased lipolysis may explain the reduced body weight. Said  Jeonga Kim, Ph.D., leader of the UAB study.

“The strategy of reducing body weight by the local delivery of nitric oxide may be a novel, efficient and safe way to prevent and treat multiple metabolic diseases.”

New Drug -  Tirzepatide

Lastly for this edition of diabetes Update is a new drug being trialed for type 2 diabetes, and as a weight-loss drug, it has shown an impressive ability to cause weight loss by mimicking the effects of natural hormones called incretinsTirzepatide, developed by American pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Company (Lilly), is a once-weekly injection under the skin that lowers blood sugar after eating and regulates digestive and metabolic processes. 

Tirzepatide is sold as “Mounjaro” in the United States, was only approved by the FDA for type 2 diabetes treatment in May 2022. The drug is a synthetic combination of two particular incretins, called GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1) and GIP (glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide).

The difference in weight loss achieved between the drug recipients and the control group was huge.  On the highest dose (15 mg), participants saw average weight reductions of 22.5 percent of their body weight (24 kg or 52 lb), while the 10 mg dose achieved 21.4 percent weight loss (22 kg or 49 lb), and 5 mg saw a 16 percent body weight reduction (16 kg or 35 lb).

New Drug - ATR-258

A new drug called ATR-258 works by directly moving sugar from blood into muscles, bypassing the bodies reliance on Insulin for blood glucose control.

The drug was developed in Sweden and is currently being trialled in patients in Sweden and is the first medication to work by directly moving sugar from the blood and into the muscle. The drug was developed by Atrogi, a company founded by Tore Bengtsson, a physiology professor at Stockholm University.

Studies in rats showed ATR-258 lowers blood glucose to healthy levels and boosts insulin sensitivity — reducing the amount required.  The current human trial has 80 subjects, we await the results with interest.


Prevention of type 2 diabetes through education and dietary management is the most effective option for society.  Raising awareness of conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, and high blood glucose individually reduces the risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

For those with a legacy of type 2 diabetes, the research mentioned above is exciting, offering real hope for a diagnosis reversal five years from now.

Simply living a healthy lifestyle, using an advanced diabetes food tracker, and having regular exercise is the best way to avoid, treat and even reverse diabetes.

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Richard Johnson
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May 31, 2022

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