Thyroid hormone could help diabetics
University of Oklahoma scientists studying cardiovascular disease stumbled across a thyroid hormone that could help diabetes patients.
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University of Oklahoma heart scientists have discovered a hormone that might help millions of diabetes patients.
Zhongjie Sun was leading his research team at the OU Health Sciences Center in a study of the effect of cold temperatures and a thyroid hormone on cardiovascular disease.
Since humans or animals exposed to cold temperatures develop high blood pressure, the team wondered if diabetic mice would develop the problem faster in cold temperatures.
So they placed diabetic mice and normal mice into a cool box kept at a constant 41 degrees. The normal mice survived while the diabetic mice died in just two hours. The team figured that the animals could not maintain their body temperatures.
“We wondered if we gave thyroid hormone can it increase the body temperatures.” Sun said.
Surprisingly, one injection of thyroid hormone increased the body temperature and also markedly decreased blood sugar within two hours and dropped it well over half in four hours, he said.
“We were so excited, we ran to the library. We checked the literature. Unfortunately, we didn't find any similar report,” Sun said.
The researchers also found the thyroid hormone level in the diabetic animals was very low. But the blood sugar was about five times higher than normal levels.
Now it appears that the thyroid hormone, called T3, may be a potential treatment for Type 2 diabetes, he said.
Researchers are looking at exactly what allows the hormone to lower blood sugar levels. At the same time, they hope to partner with physicians to begin a clinical trial to see if the hormone, which already is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as safe for humans, will produce the same effects in patients with Type 2 diabetes.
There are 150 million people diagnosed with diabetes worldwide and about 268,500 Oklahoma diagnosed with the disease. Sun said not all diabetic patients need to be treated with thyroid hormone.
“It will be up to the doctors to work with patients and determine if it will help on an individual basis,” Sun said. “However, these are important studies and could have a significant impact for the millions of people with Type 2 diabetes.”
The research was supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health, and co-authored by Yi Lin, a research fellow in the OU College of Medicine. The results are published in this month's British Journal of Pharmacology.
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