When leptin was discovered in 1994, there was considerable excitement that the hormone, which is made by fat tissue, could be manipulated and emerge as a treatment for obesity. Leptin plays a critical role in regulating appetite and in glucose and fat metabolism. Leptin research proved to be considerably complex, however, and there is little to show for the initial excitement.
That may soon change. Studies on leptin have continued and some potential therapies are emerging. Researchers reported Thursday that a Phase 1 study in mice showed that leptin can take the place of insulin in treating the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes.
Scientists at the University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center administered leptin instead of insulin to diabetic mice and found the therapy was successful at managing blood-sugar levels. Insulin, of course, is the standard therapy for Type 1 diabetes and works quite well although people can experience wide swings in blood-sugar levels. Leptin, however, works in a different way and may prove to have additional benefit. The non-obese, diabetic mice ate less and developed more lean body mass.
"We hope the positive results we've had in animals can translate to people living with this disease," The lead author of the study, Dr. Roger Unger, said in a news release. "Insulin therapy has transformed a uniformly fatal disease into a livable one; however, the regimen for people with type 1 diabetes is onerous and symptoms aren't always well controlled. We hope that low-dose insulin combined with leptin will closely mimic the body's normal physiological process."
The study is published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
-- Shari Roan
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