A new study published in the journal Diabetes opens up new possibilities of treating diabetes. Researchers from Cornell University packaged a friendly bacteria called lactobacillus into a probiotic pill form.
The bacteria were engineered to secrete a Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), which was administered orally to diabetic rats for 90 days. The rats receiving the engineered probiotic had up to 30 percent lower high blood glucose, a hallmark of diabetes.
The study determined that upper intestinal epithelial cells in diabetic rats were converted into cells that acted very much like pancreatic beta cells, which monitor blood glucose levels and secrete insulin as needed to balance glucose levels in healthy individuals. Healthy rats showed no change in glucose levels when the probiotic was administered.
“The amount of time to reduce glucose levels following a meal is the same as in a normal rat, … and it is matched to the amount of glucose in the blood,” just as it would be with a normal-functioning pancreas, said John March professor of biological and environmental engineering at Cornell University and the paper’s senior author. “It’s moving the center of glucose control from the pancreas to the upper intestine.”
Engineered commensal bacteria reprogram intestinal cells into glucose-responsive insulin-secreting cells for the treatment of diabetes, John March , et al., Diabetes, doi: 10.2337/db14-0635, published online 27 January 2015, abstract.