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A new study from the US has linked type 2 diabetes and other forms of metabolic disease to the presence of bacteria that are able to penetrate the mucus lining of the colon. These findings, published in the journal Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology, shed new light on what puts an individual at risk for diabetes, adding to established risk factors such as high blood pressure, being overweight, and leading a sedentary lifestyle. The study involved the analysis of colon cell samples, collected via colonoscopy, from subjects above the age of 21 and with no other major health conditions or problems apart from diabetes.
According to the study, which was led by Drs. Benoit Chassaing and Andrew Gewirtz at Georgia State University, it’s likely that gut microbiota can promote type 2 diabetes by invading the mucus lining and coming too close to host cells, which drives chronic inflammation that interferes with insulin’s normal action. Gut microbiota refers to microscopic living organisms that reside in the digestive tract, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
The study did not identify what types of bacteria or other microbiota were responsible for this inflammation, but the researchers are reportedly conducting follow-up studies in order to determine the microbiota’s identity. Once identification is complete, researchers can begin to focus on preventing the microbiota from causing inflammation in the first place. The study’s findings and their potential applications do not apply to type 1 diabetes, as individuals with this form of diabetes mellitus do not produce insulin in the first place—or produce very little—due to their immune system attacking their insulin-producing pancreatic cells.
Diabetes mellitus affects more than 422 million people worldwide, according to the WHO, and has been rising more rapidly in middle- and low-income countries. Type 2 diabetes accounts for most cases of diabetes, and occurs when the insulin that the body produces does not work properly, or when the body is unable to produce sufficient amounts of insulin. Type 2 diabetes typically becomes apparent during adulthood, but the age of onset is decreasing as obesity and overweight rates continue to rise and the disease is now commonly found in children.
These findings mark a major development in diabetes and metabolic disease research, bringing the medical world closer to a potential cure or more effective methods of treatment for people affected by these conditions.
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