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A new study suggests that targeting reactive molecules in liver cells may help improve insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes. Simone Wave/Stocksy
  • Researchers have made significant progress toward developing a long lasting treatment for type 2 diabetes by targeting reactive molecules in the liver.
  • A new study shows that tiny biodegradable particles helped improve insulin sensitivity in the liver cells of humans and in diabetic mice.
  • By using these nanoscavengers, researchers were able to decrease fat buildup and restore healthy blood glucose levels.

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is diagnosed when the body loses its ability to respond to insulin, which controls blood sugar levels. While symptoms are often manageable, currently there is no cure for this condition. Still, in some cases, type 2 diabetes may be reversible with lifestyle changes.

Existing treatments for type 2 diabetes primarily focus on regulating blood sugar levels.

Now, findings from a new study published in ACS Nano reveal that by targeting specific reactive molecules in the liver, it’s possible to reverse insulin resistance in both human liver cells and diabetic mice.

This breakthrough offers a potential pathway toward developing more durable treatments for type 2 diabetes.

Recent research has suggested that insulin resistance, a key factor in type 2 diabetes, could be caused by unstable molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are produced in cellular mitochondria.

Scientists have found that drugs called “mitochondrial uncouplers” can stop the production of these harmful molecules at their source, unlike traditional treatments that only clean up the molecules that have already been made.

Additionally, tiny platinum nanoparticles are very good at getting rid of reactive oxygen species, but they are quickly cleared from the liver due to their small size.

To overcome this, researchers developed a combined system using biodegradable “nanoscavengers” that can effectively target reactive oxygen species and potentially restore insulin sensitivity, offering hope for treating type 2 diabetes in the future.

The scientists developed the nanoscavengers by coating a mold with tiny platinum particles and a layer of silica.

Next, they removed the mold to create hollow structures. These hollow structures were filled with a substance that stops the production of harmful molecules in the cells and covered with a layer of lipids.

When the nanoscavengers were exposed to two specific molecules that cause symptoms in diabetes, they neutralized the molecules and converted them into harmless substances.

In experiments using liver cells, the nanoscavengers cleaned up the harmful ROS molecules but also improved the ability of the cells to take in glucose, suggesting that the cells become more responsive to insulin.

The researchers then tested the nanoscavengers in mice with diabetes.

When the nanoscavengers were injected into the bloodstreams of mice, they traveled to the liver and reduced the amount of fat there, helping the liver to function healthily again and regulating blood sugar levels.

The mice also showed improvements in a complication related to diabetes called diabetic nephropathy and did not experience any negative changes in their weight, tissues, or organs.

This novel approach holds promise for treating diabetes and other metabolic diseases in the future. It could potentially help people manage their blood sugar levels more effectively and improve their overall health.

Nancy Mitchell, a registered nurse and contributing writer at the Assisted Living Center, not involved in this research, explained the liver’s role in type 2 diabetes to Medical News Today:

“The liver plays a fundamental role in managing blood glucose levels. More specifically, it responds to increased insulin in the bloodstream to store glucose. However, when the liver becomes less sensitive to these cues from insulin, metabolic issues like type 2 diabetes tend to develop.”

– Nancy Mitchell, RN

Dr. James Walker, medical advisor at Welzo, also not involved in the study, explained that the results may indicate that the lipid bilayer (a thin membrane that forms a barrier around all cells) has the ability to counteract oxidative stress, insulin resistance, reduced glucose utilization, liver fat accumulation, and enhance antioxidant capacity in laboratory settings and in mouse models of diabetes.

In addition, when given intravenously, the lipid bilayer exhibits therapeutic benefits in treating conditions such as:

  • high blood lipid levels
  • elevated blood sugar levels
  • kidney damage associated with diabetes

Dr. Walker explained the mechanisms of using the nanoscavengers to target liver cells to MNT:

“The study describes the design of liver-targeted biodegradable silica nanoshells embedded with platinum nanoparticles (Pt-SiO2) that act as reactive oxygen species (ROS) scavengers and functional hollow nanocarriers. These nanoshells are loaded with 2,4-dinitrophenol-methyl ether (DNPME) and coated with a lipid bilayer (D@Pt-SiO2@L), which allows for long-term effective removal of ROS in the liver tissue of T2D models.”

– Dr. James Walker, physician

Mitchell noted that the new study could potentially reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes.

“The compound used is shown to repair liver damage which has likely resulted in impaired insulin sensitivity by liver cells,” she said. “Not only does it work on improving insulin sensitivity, but it is also shown to help in managing hyperlipidemia—a condition linked to type 2 diabetes and a risk factor for heart disease.”

“There’s potential to possibly reduce the incidence of other related chronic illnesses through this intervention,” Mitchell added.

Dr. Walker agreed that the new research “presents a potential strategy for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.”

He added that “if further developed and proven effective in clinical trials, this approach could provide a new treatment option for individuals with type 2 diabetes.”

“By specifically targeting liver functions and reducing oxidative stress, [the lipid bilayer] has the potential to improve insulin resistance, metabolic abnormalities, and complications associated with type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Walker said.

Despite the promising implications, however, Dr. Walker noted that the research is still in its early states and was conducted in vitro and in animal models.

“Further studies are needed to validate the safety, efficacy, and long-term effects of this approach in humans. Nevertheless, these findings contribute to the ongoing research efforts in developing innovative therapies for type 2 diabetes and highlight the potential of nanotechnology in addressing complex diseases.”

– Dr. James Walker, physician