SEP 21, 2016 7:36 PM PDT

Improving Muscle Health in Type 1 Diabetes

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker
Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune attack on the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, called beta cells. Without insulin to help the absorption of glucose into the cells for energy. While there’s no known cure for type 1 diabetes, only treatment with injections of insulin, a series of new studies shows that at the very least, controlling dangerous complications of the autoimmune disease could be possible.
One of the dangerous complications of type 1 diabetes is muscle deterioration of the skeletal muscles, the largest insulin-sensitive organ. Scientists from McMaster University showed in two separate studies in journals Diabetes and Scientific Reports a way to prevent the loss of skeletal muscle, a process that begins early on in the disease.

“By improving muscle health we can reduce blood sugar levels and improve the response to insulin," said senior author Thomas Hawke. Hawke and his team believe that the loss of skeletal muscle as a complication of type 1 diabetes is also related to other complications: kidney failure and cardiovascular disease.

According to Hawke, loss of muscle stem cells begins early on in individuals with type 1 diabetes, leading to a reduction in skeletal muscle later in life. In their recent studies, Hawke’s team found that be reducing a naturally-secreted hormone called myostatin, they could prevent the loss of skeletal muscles in individuals with type 1 diabetes.

"While my advice would be to exercise, our work may provide therapeutic options for those who may be unable to, or unable to at intensities needed to see therapeutic benefit," said Hawke.

Myostatin’s role in the body is to repress muscle growth, which literally helps the muscles from getting too big to control. Hawke found in his studies that reducing myostatin in diabetics helped them make up for the muscle loss from their autoimmune disease. Indeed, researchers found that when myostatin was reduced in diabetic individuals, blood sugar levels dropped and their muscle became more sensitive to insulin.

For diabetics, whose lifespan is often shortened by as much as fifteen years due to complications, the chance at enhanced muscle health is promising. With more studies to confirm the role of myostatin in the loss of muscle loss in diabetics, Hawke can soon bring his research to the clinical level.

Sources: NPR, McMaster University, MedlinePlus
About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog:
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