Have diabetes? Get ready to pop a probiotic pill each morning to help control your sugar levels.
According to a promising study, a team from Cornell University engineered a strain of lactobacillus – a human probiotic common in the gut to secrete a Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1).
They then administered it orally to diabetic rats for 90 days and found the rats receiving the engineered probiotic had up to 30 percent lower high blood glucose – a hallmark of diabetes.
“The study was a proof of principle and future work will test higher doses to see if a complete treatment can be achieved,” said John March, professor of biological and environmental engineering at Cornell.
The researchers found that upper intestinal epithelial cells in diabetic rats were converted into cells that acted very much like pancreatic beta cells.
These cells monitor blood glucose levels and secrete insulin as needed to balance glucose levels in healthy individuals. “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,” March added.
It is like moving the centre of glucose control from the pancreas to the upper intestine, he noted. Though it replaces the insulin capacity in diabetic rats, the researchers found no change in blood glucose levels when administered to healthy rats.
“If the rat is managing its glucose, it does not need more insulin,” March pointed out. The researchers are now working to get the therapy into production for human use, concluded the study that appeared in the journal Diabetes.