A characteristic of type 2 diabetes is decreased production of proteins that are connected to glucose levels. A specific type of immune system cell that produces these proteins has recently been found to “suppress glucose production in the liver – without targeting insulin,” a result that could have major implications on alternative diabetic treatments, in addition to immune system understandings.
The proteins are generally referred to as “defensins,” and the the specific immune system cell investigated in the study is known as neutrophil. Defensins are believed to be connected to glucose levels, and this study has unveiled that neutrophils, which are a type of white blood cell, produce defensins.
Type 2 diabetics often have decreased defensin levels, potentially making blood-glucose levels more difficult to control. The introduction of the immune cell neutrophil could potentially bring defensin levels in type 2 diabetics closer to a normal level, which could be an alternative treatment for those that have poor responses to insulin treatments.
This finding also helps better understand immune system response to sickness. According to the study, “during bacterial infection, defensin production can increase dramatically, a rise that frequently results in hypoglycemia.” Hypoglycemia is a dangerous condition characterized by low blood-glucose levels.
Tests were done on isolated test-tube human cells, as well as on mice. The results showed that by “treating liver cells with HNP-1[neutrophils] suppressed the expression of several glucose-producing genes and decreased cellular glucose levels, but did not activate or alter the expression of the insulin receptor at all. This inhibition extended to animals, as HNP-1 reduced blood glucose levels in both normal mice and diabetic rats.”
The results of the study represent only the first stage in implementing new treatments for diabetics and perhaps the prevention of conditions such as hypoglycemia. The study does clearly show that neutrophils have an important role in producing defensins, which can help control glucose levels, and could prove to be a valuable tool for type 2 diabetics in the future.
Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Zagorski, Nick. JBC Online news release. April 2008.