A single injection could cure both obesity and type 2 diabetes without any side effects, new research suggests.
Injecting a hormone, known as FGF21, into obese mice causes weight loss and greater insulin sensitivity for more than a year, a study found.
Insulin resistance is the reduced ability of cells to respond to the hormone, which transports glucose out of the bloodstream and is associated with the onset of type 2 diabetes.
FGF21 is thought to lead to weight loss by boosting animals’ energy levels, making them more active. The hormone also raises their body temperatures, which causes rodents to burn calories.
Obesity increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. Some 3.5 million people in the UK and 30.3 million in the US have diabetes, with up to 95 per cent suffering from type 2.
The researchers, from the Autonomous University of Barcelona, fed adult mice either a standard or high-fat diet for 10 weeks.
The weight of the animals fed the standard diet increased by 27 per cent, while the other rodents’ increased by 72 per cent, making them obese.
The obese mice were then injected with FGF21. Those of a healthy weight were given a placebo-style jab.
All of the rodents were then fed their respective diets for around one year, with their body weights being monitored throughout.
Results suggest the weight of the mice injected with FGF21 normalized within a few weeks of the jab, making them a similar size to the rodents given a standard diet.
The obese animals, who were suffering from insulin resistance, also had normal levels of the hormone after being given the jab.
FGF21, which has been associated with bone loss, did not cause any change to the mice’s bone density or volume.
When the researchers fed a high-fat diet to older adult mice and then injected them with FGF21, the rodents initially lost 10 per cent of their body weight, with them continuing to shed the pounds until they were the same size as healthy animals.
The scientists carried out this second experiment due to the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes increasing with age.
Although the findings, published in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine, are promising, the researchers add that larger, longer studies in animals are required before FGF21 can be considered for treatment in humans.
This comes after research released last month suggested scientists have created an insulin pill that could signal the end of injections for diabetics.
Unlike previous failed attempts to make oral diabetes medications, the pill survives the acidic environment of the stomach to release insulin into the bloodstream, according to the Harvard researchers.
After rats were given the unnamed pill, their blood-glucose levels fell by 38 per cent in two hours and 45 per cent after 10 hours, compared to a 49 per cent decrease in 60 minutes among those given insulin injections, a study found.
The researchers believe the drug may overcome the pain and needle phobias some diabetics experience.
Dr Mark Prausnitz, from the Georgia Institute of Technology, who was not involved in the study, said: ‘This study shows remarkable results where insulin given by mouth works about as well as a conventional injection’.
It is unclear when the drug may be available and if it would benefit type 1 or 2 diabetes patients.
Source: Daily Mail