There is growing evidence of the efficacy of a cure for type 2 diabetes without the use of drugs. Researchers have shown how short bursts of ultrasound targeting specific groups of nerves in the liver can effectively reduce insulin and glucose levels. The result was obtained in three different animal models.
A team of GE Research, School of Medicine and other institutes published a study in Nature Biomedical Engineering showing a new non-invasive approach to diabetes. As mentioned, these are ultrasounds capable of stimulating specific sensory nerves in the liver. The technique is called peripheral focused ultrasound stimulation (pFUS).
Bringing down diabetes with ultrasound
The researchers present in a briefing on Nature also the action to stimulate an area of the liver called the "portal vein". This region hosts a nerve plexus that transmits glucose information to the brain, but it was difficult to study because its nerve cells could not be activated individually with electrodes.
This study shows that the result can be achieved with short targeted bursts of pFUS in this region of the liver. The effect? Stop the progression of diabetes. The therapy has already been successful in 3 different animal models of diabetes: mice, rats and pigs.
Unfortunately, there are only a few drugs that lower insulin levels today, according to. "If our ongoing clinical trials confirm the promise of the preclinical studies reported in this paper," he says Raimund Herzog, an endocrinologist at Yale University School of Medicine working on the "Change Everything" project.
If ultrasound can be used to reduce both insulin and glucose levels then ultrasound neuromodulation will be an exciting and completely new weapon for the treatment of diabetes.
How many ultrasounds do you need?
According to the research, three minutes of focused ultrasound each day is sufficient to maintain healthy blood sugar levels in animals with diabetes. Now is the time to prepare for the transition to human studies: and there are already small technical problems, which can be overcome in the medium term.
One above all: you need qualified personnel. Of course, technology already exists that simplifies and automates these systems for use by patients at home, but it will need to be developed before ultrasound treatment for diabetes can be made mainstream.
What are the next applications?
Christopher Puleo, corresponding author of the new study, is confident that this type of non-pharmaceutical method could replace many approaches in the future.
"We are in the midst of human trials for type 2 diabetes, which will eventually lead to clinical trials," adds Puleo. "Ultrasound may be a turning point for how bioelectronic medicines will be used and applied to diseases such as type 2 diabetes in the future."
In parallel with the preliminary human studies (with preliminary results expected by the end of the year), a group of new tests on larger animals will also take place in the coming months.