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Health Talk recommends: Treating diabetes with beneficial bacteria

Photo: Courtesy of OVPR

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Inquiry.

University of Minnesota researchers are on a mission to treat diabetes, and they’ve enlisted a few trillion microscopic helpers.

In place of drugs or surgery, a team of researchers is studying how to improve diabetes patients’ insulin sensitivity by introducing trillions of beneficial bacteria into their intestines. Researchers believe this unusual approach, conducted through a fecal microbiota transplant, could improve how the body regulates blood sugar, the central problem in diabetics. The project is part of MnDRIVE (Minnesota’s Discovery, Research and InnoVation Economy), a $36 million biennial investment by the state that aims to solve grand challenges. As a part of MnDRIVE’s Transdisciplinary Research Program, the project will bridge multiple fields of research and bring together experts from across the U to work on the same clinical trial.

Patients with diabetes have too much glucose in their blood, which leads to a host of serious health problems, from heart disease to obesity. Dr. Alexander Khoruts, a gastroenterologist at the U of M and lead principal investigator on the project, said the right balance of bacteria has the potential to improve the body’s energy metabolism, in part by enhancing insulin function. Insulin drives glucose from blood into cells of the body.

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research-and-clinical-trials

Research snapshot: Evidence based medicine applications can be applied to well-established interventions

Photo: MatthewLangham/CC 2.0/flic.kr/p/4oidW

In science and medicine, doctors utilize many kinds of evidence when making health care decisions. Known within the medical community as evidence based medicine (EBM), one of the primary goals is to improve overall decisions by the individual physicians and care team. In a previous study published in the British Medical Journal, researchers argued that some things are so obvious that they do not require ongoing research and even ridiculed the practice of evidence-based medicine.

The example they provided was not needing to judge the effectiveness of a parachute when jumping out of an airplane.

And while that may seem logical because everyone “knows” a parachute helps to improve your chances of survival when jumping from an airplane, EBM can more accurately prove this to be true.

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research-and-clinical-trials

Drug design for Parkinson’s disease starts here

Photo: OakleyOriginals/CC 2.0/ flic.kr/p/5pjoeg

Were drug design a road, it would surely be a Minnesota street fraught with potholes, ice and gravel.

Even the best ideas can fall by the wayside somewhere between the lab and your corner pharmacy in the process of drug discovery and development.

Recently, University of Minnesota Center for Drug Design member, organic chemist and assistant professor Liqiang Chen, Ph.D., published a paper in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry outlining the discovery of a potent and selective protein-inhibitor. Blocking the protein, Sirtuin 2 (SIRT2), also has the potential to block a primary contributor to Parkinson’s disease from causing harm.

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research-and-clinical-trials

University of Minnesota study: More effective alcohol policies ignored while less effective passed into law

Photo: Mike Knlec/CC 2.0/flic.kr/p/pcLepZ

What works to prevent alcohol-related deaths and binge drinking isn’t always what makes it into law. A new study finds that policymakers are significantly more likely to adopt ineffective alcohol policies than they are to adopt effective ones. Researchers at the University of Minnesota and Boston University tracked 29 different state alcohol control policies from 1999 through 2011 and found that that none of the policies rated to be the most effective for reducing excessive drinking were either adopted or strengthened during the study period. During that same period they noted an increase in adoption of policies that were comparatively less effective, or that targeted only youth drinking or impaired driving.

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research-and-clinical-trials

U of M, St. Jude Medical partner to tackle Parkinson’s disease, depression

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Inquiry.

University of Minnesota researchers and St. Jude Medical are collaborating to treat some of the most challenging and debilitating movement and neuropsychiatric disorders using deep brain stimulation (DBS), a treatment which uses electrical current to directly stimulate parts of the brain. The project is part of MnDRIVE (Minnesota’s Discovery, Research and InnoVation Economy), a $36 million biennial investment by the state that aims to solve grand challenges in areas that align with Minnesota’s industries, including discoveries and treatments for brain conditions.

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research-and-clinical-trials

Can this drug for Tylenol overdose make inroads with Type 1 diabetes?

Photo: Victor/CC 2.0/ flic.kr/p/hyE2be

A low-cost Tylenol overdose drug already available for cystic fibrosis use will soon enter clinical trials aimed at discovering whether it can aid in treating an additional condition: Type 1 diabetes.

The drug, a natural supplement, is thought to have potential use in the treatment of hypoglycemia, a condition in which too little blood sugar is present in the body.

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